Saturday, December 27, 2014

Netflix Instant Queue Movie Review: "Bunraku" (2010)

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Director: Guy Moshe
Year: 2010
Rating: R
Running Time: 2 hours, 4 minutes

In the distant future, mankind has destroyed itself with the advancement of weaponry. This has led to a ban on all firearms and other explosive weapons. Unfortunately, this ban did not end violence as men have just reverted to using swords and axes to do their killing. The one who is best at killing rules the rest. Nicola the Woodcutter (Ron Perlman) is the most powerful and dangerous man east of the Atlantic and he, his 9 killers and his "Red Gang" street thugs rule the area with an iron fist. One day, two outsiders come into town, a drifter (Josh Hartnett) and the cousin of a local restaurant owner named Yoshi (Gackt), who both have a similar goal to kill Nicola, though for different reasons. Though combative at first, Yoshi and the Drifter may have to put their differences aside and join forces if they ever hope to get close enough to Nicola to achieve their mutual goal. 

"Bunraku," at its core, is the most basic revenge story. A mysterious man, in this case Josh Hartnett, shows up in town where the big villain in charge has unknowingly (or knowingly) wronged them in the past. Now that this mysterious man is well-prepared and fully trained, he is ready to take his revenge. This villain, of course, has an army of nameless fodder for the hero to run over and defeat with ease. There is also a clan of sub-bosses, who are a more difficult task that actually take effort to defeat. Then, there is the villain's right-hand man, who can be as good as or in some cases better than the big boss himself. There isn't much else to the story. There isn't a whole lot of compelling dialogue apart from a few lines of fortune cookie philosophy. There isn't even a real interesting plot or subplot apart from revenge.

Where this film tries to set itself apart is through its setting, style, and visuals, which can be pretty cool at times. The entire opening number is drawn in a very comic book style almost like "Sin City," but without the pomp and circumstance. The movie is set in the future, but the style of dress and cars are more reminiscent of the past, circa the 1940's. It is almost a western and Japanese martial arts film mash-up that takes place in an urban environment. The set and cinematography are also very stylized as well. The entire set reminds us more of a stage play, cartoon, or comic book rather than a motion picture. There are no on-location shots with any natural environment. Everything is constructed and all of the backgrounds are painted. As interesting and ambitious as the art direction was, we can't say the same about the rest of the visuals. For a movie that banks so heavily on its style, it was a little all over the place. When push comes to shove, there just wasn't much that set "Bunraku" apart from the hundreds of other revenge movies already in existence. When it came to the fight scenes and action, most of the scenes felt rather underwhelming. Even with the typically fabulous Ron Perlman, this movie only had its occasional decent moments, albeit brief.

My Rating: 4.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 4.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 19%
Do we recommend this movie: No.

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