Funny that everytime I see a Miike flick I walk away saying to myself, "That's the strangest thing I've ever seen."
This was no different. But not in the best way.
In many ways, for a Miike film, this is very controlled. That's not to say it doesn't have a woman dance around a bar twisting and turning in all dircetions while licking her thumb only to collapse on the floor and pull a string of bells out of her mouth. Because yeah, that's in there. But it tells a story and no wonder Tarantino has a rather large cameo/role in the film because like his genre-combining efforts, this is a huge mish-mash of most Western films out there with the core being Japanese history.
Somehow….Tarantino steals the screen. His trippy 'prologue' to the story is an interesting but seemingly unecessary venture, only to come back later as a terribly important role that not only pulls the story together, but makes it interesting and saves it from being a borefest.
Because this movie goes from crazy to boring really, really fast.
Despite starting VERY strong with a great cast of characters seemingly ripped straight from the pages of a comic, the story grows stale fast and gets lost in Miike's 'strandard' world very quickly. That being good for his films like Izo or Gozu where it's the point, but I went in expecting a gun busting Western and Miike's 'standard' style raising it's ugly head was more annoying than effective here.
But after Tarantino appears again and not only delivers some of the funniest lines/moments of the film, but also ties it together with his role, things get interesting and stay that way until the credits role.
The film's biggest problem is....the dialogue. He went for an entirely English film (except for some GREAT moments) as spoken by Japanese-speaking thesps.
90% of the cast can't speak English for shyt and it makes for some awful noise on the ears. At some points I gave up listening and went for the Japanese subs instead which were fa easier to understand. It's clear in some scenes that they obviously dubbed their lines. Of course....the question is whether or not Miike intended it to be that way, in defiance of the Spaghetti Western with Italian thesps having their lines dubbed over afterwards. Speaking of which, this is the definition of Western stereotype. Lines like, "Some men got a reason to keep on livin' ", fly fast and furious and it seems they were intended to be funny considering the juxstaposition of the setting, period and actors spouting them. I was cracking up with my girlfriend while the rest of the audience 'didn't get it' but whatever.
Anyway, it's nowhere near his best work and it's nowhere near being a great Western but I think it's possibly the first great Eastern.
Yeah, I wrote this review just for that sentence.