You have to assume that for every three of Takashi Miike’s films released here, one will be merely passable, one will be brilliant and one will be a straight-up clusterfuck. Given that an operatic Italian oater would seem tailored to Miike’s skewed strengths—his best work usually involves over-the-top genres pushed to cosmic extremes—our money would’ve been on this movie to fill one of the first two slots. We would have lost spectacularly.
Though Sukiyaki Western Django comes across as an intercontinental dish (a European version of an American staple done by a Japanese director), this flavorless mush’s only geo-cultural allegiance is to Planet Grindhouse. The plot is pure Horse Opera 101: A black-hatted stranger (Ito) comes between two color-coded clans battling over a chest of loot. But rather than use this as the starting point for some stratospheric deconstruction, or even a straight spaghetti western, Miike simply treats it as an excuse for visually impressive but repetitively boring bloodbaths. Translation: So what? The Japanese cast’s awkward English isn’t nearly as incomprehensible as guest star Quentin Tarantino’s mangling of the language; his heavily accented line deliveries (Southern? Saxon? Klingon?) suggest his dialogue was learned phonetically. His scenes are excruciating but brief. The film’s bad aftertaste, however, will linger on indefinitely.