DVD Review: Bunraku

Directed by Guy Moshe
Starring Josh Hartnett, Woody Harrelson & Demi Moore

A chaotic mix of disparate visual styles and motifs from cult movies, comic books and videogames where instead of each element perfectly complementing each other to create a delicious multi-genre cocktail (ala Kill Bill/Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) we are instead served the cinematic equivalent of a dirty pint. A incohesive blend from a random Fan Boy genre checklist that fails to gel because the characters are nothing more than cyphers than actual human beings that we can connect with and get behind. This is Bunraku.

Once upon a time in a gaudy Post-Apocalyptic Noir Western town a Drifter (Hartnett) rides into town. Wait, actually, two strangers: a cardsharp gunman and samurai drifter (Gakt), both with revenge in mind. The strangers soon team up via a helpful barkeep and pick up a spurned concubine as an ally against their common enemy, brutal crime boss Nicola The Woodcutter (Ron Perlman) and his army of multi-coloured Day Glo suited assassins lead by his right hand man Killer 2 (Kevin McKidd).

If this sounds like a heady mix of geek cinema you’re completely right! Super ambitious Israeli director Guy Moshe kicks off his sophomore effort with an prologue about man’s unquenchable lust for self-destruction  illustrated in a breathless parade of animation styles from shadow puppets to CGI but narrated in a voiceover with all the lyrical finesse of a frat boy Jock’s college essay .

We are then thrusted into a Dick Tracy/Sin City/Yojimbo mash-up world where mysterious prohibition era gunmen walk shoulder to shoulder with Samurai Warriors and mutinous Cossacks. Now I’m a humungous fan of the movies, comic books and videogames that Moshe is referencing here and the guy is a very accomplished visual stylist but to paraphrase the bard ”Moshe’s interest lies not truly in story, but in his eyes.’

Moshe’s dilemma is very similar to Zack Snyder’s in Sucker Punch (Bunraku’s spiritual twin) to walk amongst the great cinematic stylists of our time, the Tarantino’s, Almodóvar’s and Scorsese’s of the world, you have to do more than visually parrot cinema but to also funnel that postmodernism through rootable characters and an engaging story of which on both accounts Moshe is found seriously wanting.

This is a big problem because without those things the elaborate fight scenes then simply exist just to look cool thus robbing them of any dramatic significance and emotional weight.  The score feels as hollow-y decorational as a videogame. Bunraku refers to a traditional Japanese form of theatre where the puppeteers are clearly visible and true to form, this movie feels just as phoney.



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