Reviewed by: Zombie Boy
What's it about
A cowboy in a world without guns teams up with a samurai with no sword to defeat an oppressive woodcutter warlord in a semi-animated dystopian future.
Is it good movie?
Bunraku starts off with a bang. A visually arresting paper-cutout animation scene describes how the human propensity to kill each other was on its way to its logical conclusion of death to all, when a global consensus came about to collect and destroy all firearms. But as LOST taught us, we cannot fight our own natures, and warfare sprang up again with closer, more intimate weapons. Thus the dystopian future becomes the distant past, and feudal states arose with one particularly powerful warlord, Nicola, known as The Woodcutter, controlling most of the world east of the Atlantic. He, his inner circle of ten killers, and his army of red suits, menace the proletariat on a daily basis.
Enter into this landscape The Drifter, a never-named cowboy with lightning fast reflexes, a brutal disposition, and a penchant for cards, and Yoshi, a Bushido master at war between what he wants for himself and what his father wants him to be. Their paths converge as they discover they both want something from The Woodcutter: Yoshi a Dragon medallion stolen from his father, and The Drifter simply vengeance for an unspecified reason. Together they fight their way through the red suits and the nine killers for a chance at a showdown with Nicola himself.
Bunraku is a feast for the eyes, and a joy for the cinematic senses. It seamlessly blends animation with live-action, has a rich and varied color palette, and frequently plays with time and perspective. It also mashes up westerns, samurai films, and 60ís musicals. Imagine West Side Story if it had brutally violent fight scenes instead of songs and dance numbers. Unfortunately it did not quite have the dramatic follow-through I would like to have seen. Yoshi comes to no revelation about his relationship with his father, and The Drifter pays no price for exacting his vengeance. But still, Bunraku is such a goddamned entertaining film, and is so much fun to watch, that a dearth of dramatic irony is a small price to pay.
A small note on the casting: while Woody Harrelson and Demi Moore largely go to waste, Josh Hartnett is better here than in anything else Iíve seen him in and Ron Perlman is a treat as always, but Scotsman Kevin McKidd is the true standout as killer #2. Also, the movie is narrated by Mike Patton, which is reason alone to watch it.
Video / Audio
Bunraku is a movie that will slide down your eyestalks and light up the visual center of your brain like a pinball machine, even if it does falter in the dramatic irony department. If youíre any sort of movie fan at all youíll love the mash-up of genres and the sheer brilliance of the telling of this (admitted in the narration) over-told tale. And it will actually make you like Josh Hartnett, which is no small feat. Recommended.