Set in the aftermath of a global war which sees firearms having been outlawed, man with the mysterious name Drifter (Josh Harnett) arrives in town with a plan to take down the city's top boss Nicola The Woodcutter (Ron Perlman) during his quest he teams up with Japanese swordsman Yoshi (Gackt) a Bar Tender (Woody Harrelson) and the three decide to clean up once and for all.
I've had my eye on this movie for a very, very long time mostly because I liked the cast and also because what the movie promised visually intrigued me. The film takes things such as Japanese shadow theatre, German expressionism, Hollywood dance, Chanbara films, comic books, spaghetti westerns and even old school video games and throws it all together in one of the most unique cinematic experiences I've seen in a while.
The story itself is nothing write home about at all. Anybody reading this blog will have seen many movies with the same plot dozens of times and I've said before there's nothing wrong with that. If film makers can bring something original to it then the story hardly matters. Bunraku does that and does it quite well. Director Guy Moshe could have done an absolutely abysmal job of taking all the different visual elements and making a horrendously pretentious borefest but Moshe keeps things well in check and isn't afraid to try something new with what's presented on screen.
Sets are done in a manner which invokes classic German expressionism and classical theater, given the audience the impression they're watching a play as opposed to a feature film. Japanese characters subtitles are done with comic book captions and scene transitions are like your flicking through a pop-up book. Reading that you may be shaking your head and thinking "That sounds ridiculous!" and it is but works, it really does work.
What also makes the film work is the cast that really does seem to be having one heck of a time being in it. Josh Harnett, an actor whose work I greatly admire, revels as Drifter. He plays the character with all the swagger of Clint Eastwood in a Sergio Leone movie and this creates good chemistry with Japanese co-star Gackt who makes an extremely impressive English language debut. His character Yoshi leaps right out of a Kurosawa movie and it would be wonderful to see him get more roles like this even in his native Japan. Ron Perlman, Hollywood's most reliable villain actor delights as Nicola, injecting the character effortlessly with appropriate menace. However one character I wanted to address was that of the bizarre killer Number 2 played by scottish actor Kevin Mckidd.
Mckidd plays the character as if he were Fred Astaire. Only if he had used his talent for dancing to kill people instead of entertaining them. He struts his way through the fight scenes and really makes a unforgettable impression in an already memorable film.
That leads me to talk about the action scenes which are very good. Everybody gives it there all, even Hartnett who has never done action like this before swings his fists in a scene mimicking classic arcade video games. There's also a scene which introduces us to Mckidd's character utilizing sword and dance choreography in a really unique way.
And that's the key word here when talking about a film like Bunraku. Unique. When it comes to film I find it to be a word which gets used way too much and mostly applied to films which don't deserve it but this one does and despite the rather luke-warm reception it has received critically I would definitely urge you all to see it.