Bunraku, was written and directed by Guy Moshe (of 2006’s Holly). It’s set in a post-nuclear-war world in which guns have been banned. Banned by who? One of the many unexplained plot holes in the film and are basically left for you to figure out. Most all violence in Bunraku is carried out with mostly melee weapons. There are men wielding swords, the occasional killing of a man with one punch, an occasional bowman makes an appearance, and it would be remiss of me to leave out the occasional death by flying axe. The city in which the action takes place is oppressed by a vicious gang led by Nicola The Woodcutter (Ron Perlman), “the most powerful man east of the Atlantic.” He’s a mystery, because he never shows his face. He has a vicious system in which his men can earn a promotion. He has an army led by his top 9 assassins called Killers. Those coveted positions are filled by a challenge or duel. It’s a survival of the fittest kind of thing.
A cliched cowboy drifter (Josh Hartnett) and a samurai on a mission of honor (J-pop Star Gackt) wander into the troubled city. They unite at a bar, after various encounters with Nicola’s minions scattered throughout the city. They’re prodded to unite by a bartender (Woody Harrelson), whose hobby is creating pop-up books, with a grudge against Nicola. They face down tough teamsters, a massive army, Nicola’s second in command Killer No. 2 (Kevin McKidd), and corrupt police. Did I forget to mention the clowns? Bunraku is over the top and should be an awesome time, but there isn’t any real character development. It tries. It really really tries. Nicola’s dame (Demi Moore) is pretty much just there as a trophy female which I found sad because she can definitely have pulled off gritty more. I think there were attempts to show another side to Nicola using her, but they failed.
Bunraku, is traditional Japanese puppetry in which a narrator voices all the characters and visible puppeteers dress in black and operate tall puppets on elaborate sets. The movie had these awesome sets but they added nothing to the characters. I think the film isn’t reaching out to teach a lesson or even inspire you. It’s an interesting mix of unique perspectives with mundane characters. The movie reminds me of a graphic novel. I think character development was sacrificed for amazing visuals. Also, you could honestly feel how the actors enjoyed their roles. They didn’t have a lot to work with but they threw everything they had into it. Oh, god the clichés… I have a soft spot for B movies so clichés are nothing new to me. It’s like the writers took pride in digging up every cliché they could and the director just went with it. It’s a good thing I enjoy clichés.
I had several fangirl squeals over the cinematography and the way in which everything is presented as a performance of some kind. Some of the battles are more like a dance. Those fights reminded me of Kung Fu Hustle with their synchronized axe men. Oddly enough it has a Sin City feel to it. Even though the character development is lacking, I love this movie. I bought the Blu-ray and often re-watch it. It’s a love it or hate it kind of movie. Yes it has flaws. I find if you watch it without expectations it is surprisingly entertaining. Kudos to Kevin McKidd, his performance was just creepy. He pulled off creepy psycho very well. I find myself quoting the movie every now and then, so there is something there. I recommend watching it when you’re in a chill mood, at least you won’t be screaming for your two hours back.
Bunraku is a happy addition to my collection. No regrets.
C E Score Sheet (1-5)
Production Quality: 4
C E Metascore: 3 RENT IT!!!
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