Saturday, 12 March 2016

Magic Miike

Highly praised for Audition, the Dead Or Alive trilogy, Ichi The Killer, and rightly acclaimed for the inventive novelty of his many low-budget projects (who else but this iconoclastic, always–busy Japanese director would follow brutal sci-fi thriller Full Metal Yakuza with haunting rural adventure Bird People In China?), Takashi Miike’s first English–language movie, Sukiyaki Western Django, is not a bad effort, but a certain failure to impress remains its most notable aspect. Despite some critical ramblings to the contrary, this definitely is both arch parody and stylised pastiche of various spaghetti westerns or ‘chambara’ samurai/ ronin epics.  

Yes, post-modern flourishes jump from the screen, but its objectives are clear-cut. Gunfighters routinely defy the laws of physics. Scrapbooks of clich├ęs and genre conventions make a virtue of narrative incoherence, assembling all manner of trite/ thoughtful affectation, and there’s a ‘sympathetic nature’ snowfall, quite in keeping with apparent victory for the ‘white’ clan, in the bitterly tragic climax. The big trouble with such harrumphing intentions to insolvably confuse, subvert expectations in general or specific terms, and present viewers with bulk order incongruities and startling anachronisms, is that the likes of Alex Cox’s formidably bizarre Straight To Hell (1987), Sam Raimi’s lesser triumph The Quick And The Dead (1995), and even Seijun Suzuki’s urban thriller Pistol Opera (2001), already did that.

Apart from its use of coupon CGI, there’s nothing much here that’s particularly original. ‘Bloody Benten’, a shooter–goddess on the vengeance warpath, makes a nifty comic–book contrast with other familiar, cited–in–dialogue references to Yojimbo (which, of course, inspired Sergio Leone’s famous Dollars trilogy), and Shakespeare’s historical works about the War of the Roses. Quentin Tarantino guest stars in retro expository flashbacks, but he’s pretentiously smug, ranting over authentic Japanese cuisine in a drama where the fakery of painted stage backdrops sees blood splatter on the ‘eastern’ sky. Perhaps the best thing about this is the reminder that we don’t need badly–dubbed foreign flicks when Kaori Momoi’s quirkily–accented English almost steals the show!
 
 
This review is from my 'Blood Spectrum' column in Black Static #9 (February 2009). Also covered in that issue: 
 
Brotherhood Of Blood
The Mummy
The Mummy Returns
The Mummy: Tomb Of The Dragon Emperor
Eden Lake
Resident Evil: Degeneration
Memories Of Matsuko
Kamikaze Girls
The Midnight Meat Train
Bad Biology
The Rage
The Guard Post
Tooth And Nail
Death Race (remake)
Road Kill 2: Dead Ahead
Hit And Run
Alien Raiders
Splinter   

 

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