A lone cowboy wanders into the desolate dusty town upon a horse and witnesses two armed camps of men at war with one another. He offers his services to the highest bidder and one of the men shouts out to him “Don’t plan on doing a Yojimbo here”, but in fact that is exactly what happens as this film follows in those footsteps though to be more precise it follows in the tracks of Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars which was of course based on Yojimbo. Thinking about the cross-cultural influences of this film could give you whiplash. In this part sly parody, part affectionate homage to the Spaghetti Western of Italy, director Takeshi Miike takes the basic elements of many of those films and piles on his own unique style and bizarre vision as only Miike can. With its familiar plot set in place it allows Miike to give full vent to his creative urges and he does so in a very playful manner - occasionally drenching the screen in gaudy surrealistic colors and putting together various stunning set pieces that will have you often chuckling at his warped imagination and the absurdity of what passes before your eyes. It only takes a minute before you have passed through the world of Leone to that of Miike when one man is shot through the stomach and a hole the size of grapefruit results and with him still standing upright trying to figure exactly what happened various of his cohorts take turns looking through the gaping hole to the other side. Other influences run through the film as well and I couldn’t help wonder how much Quentin Tarentino who appears in cameos at the beginning and near the end contributed to this film – the terse pithy dialogue certainly sounded like it had his fingerprints all over it and some of his Kill Bill style seems evident such as the final duel in the suddenly snowy landscape – but then was that Kill Bill or Lady Snowblood that Miike was referencing?
This film is clearly a case of overwhelming style over substance and for some I expect it may just not click as the constant bag of flourishes may get tiresome and some emotional undertones may be wanting (a few people at Pusan told me they hated the film), but you have to give Miike credit for continuously trying something new and different and rarely feeling stale. The film received much of its advance hype because Miike has the Japanese actors speaking in English and I have read of people who found it cumbersome to listen to – but perhaps because I spend so much of my time overseas these days it truthfully didn’t bother me in the least bit and after only a few minutes I stopped reading the English subs and had no problem understanding them and actually found their readings very well done. I won’t go into the plot because if you haven’t seen either Yojimbo or A Fistful of Dollars I recommend you do so immediately.
My rating for this film: 7.5