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2010 | 118 min | 2.39:1



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Movie appeal

Martial arts30%


Theatrical release date

 30 September, 2011

Country of origin

 United States



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Screenshots from Bunraku Blu-ray

Bunraku Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, September 15, 2011

Perhaps hardcore anime and martial arts fanatics will find something to appreciate in the futuristic bruiser "Bunraku," but there's very little here for an outside audience to savor. A supremely labored, visually exhausting actioner, the picture is an overstylized, overwritten, overinflated jumble that doesn't have a clue when to quit. It's definitely colorful and eager to please, but a little of this convoluted mess goes a long way.

In the post-apocalyptic future, the world have been taken over by tyrants, with Nicola (Ron Perlman) employing a gang of assassins (including Kevin McKidd) to keep order while fleecing the locals for everything they own. Into the city walks The Drifter (Josh Harnett), a shadowy figure on the hunt for a high-stakes card game. Also circling the streets is Yoshi (Gackt), a Japanese warrior searching for an important medallion in Nicola's possession, working to protect his family from harm. With help provided by The Bartender (Woody Harrelson), Drifter and Yoshi team up to conquer a common enemy, using exceptional fight skills to infiltrate Nicola's compound and slaughter their enemy.

"Bunraku" is the umpteenth attempt to bring spiky graphic novel sensibilities to cinema, deploying extravagant greenscreen and liquid CGI design to manufacture a futureworld of sword-based combat (guns have been outlawed), Eastern influences, and pop-up book construction. Writer/director Guy Moshe ("Holly") is ambitious and hungry to turn "Bunraku" into a full-blooded sensory assault, blasting the screen with color, wild editorial flourishes, and extravagant costuming and set design. Think the 2006 turkey "Ultraviolet" crossed with last year's flop "The Warrior's Way," only Moshe is intent on topping anything that's attempted to inhale the same air.

While pieced together in a wildly artificial manner, "Bunraku" chases an enormous scope of combat, allowing production designer Chris Farmer to go hog wild imagining a multihued landscape of East-meets-West sets, populated by a cast of oddball characters, running around in ornate costumes masterminded by Donna Zakowska. Tremendous effort went into producing the picture, making its ultimate failure a rather painful realization. Moshe is so lost in the intricate construction of the action set pieces, the graphic intensity of the visuals, and the cultural inspirations that he never establishes a rousing story to get lost in. There's plenty of activity buzzing around "Bunraku," but it's seldom coherent, despite ponderous narration by Faith No More's Mike Patton, introduced to keep what little here passes for plot intact. Dialogue is mundane, performances are flat (though Gackt is a spunky hero), and the climax takes an eternity to reach a foregone conclusion. "Bunraku" works very hard to head absolutely nowhere.

I could write that the picture doesn't make any sense, but I fear my own growing disinterest in this 120-minute-long seizure might've contributed to any lack of narrative clarity. Still, Moshe deserves a prolonged spanking for the movie's general disinterest in timing and brevity, even going as far as to introduce a foil for Nicola (played by Demi Moore) who ends up as more clutter in an already crowded feature, failing to effect the plot in any way. The absence of directorial control is brutal to endure, making "Bunraku" feel detached and overstimulated. It's downright wasteful.

If mindless violence is your thing, "Bunraku" has plenty of slashings and beatings, a few taking on a Broadway stage quality to further monkey with the tone of this goof. There's even a fight staged on a circus trapeze net, just because. It's a broad, frenzied adventure that I'm sure a select few will be able to pull deeper meaning out of, but most viewers will find their patience tested quickly and repeatedly. The colors can only dazzle for so long before the cruel reality sets it: a lot happens in "Bunraku," but nothing actually occurs

Starring: Josh Hartnett, Gackt, Woody Harrelson, Kevin McKidd, Ron Perlman, Demi Moore
Narrator: Mike Patton
Director: Guy Moshe

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