It happened again. Sunday started, and I found myself without nary a thing to review for Faceplant this week. As what often happens in these cases, I ended up on Netflicks, browsing the short descriptions for movies that I am too far out of touch with society to know about firsthand. And like the other six or seven times this has happened since the creation of this blog, eventually I just said “screw it” and picked a movie at random.
I ended up watching Bunraku, a quirky movie that mashes together about fifteen different genres into an actually entertaining movie. According to IMDB, this film was released to some pretty mediocre reviews, but then again I always have had pretty bizarre tastes in things.
What could I possibly say about Bunraku? It’s a little hard to describe. The movie starts out with a neat little paper craft introduction that sets the stage for the overall theme of the film. Apparently, as the serious voiced narrator tells us, all life on the planet essentially evolves to have one goal in mind: To wreck the faces of others who might stick their noses into our resources. Humanity is, of course, the best at this, and eventually our species manages to end society in a flurry of nukes, bullets and totally sweet blockbuster explosions.
Of course after the war to end all wars, humanity realizes just how little there is left to fight for, so a ban goes into effect. Weapons more complicated than swords, spears, and bows are immediately banned. Humanity hopes this will usher in a new era of peace and prosperity, but in actuality it just means that people turn themselves into kung fu murderers, and thus the violence continues.
The story follows the tale of Yoshi (Gackt Camui), and an unnamed cowboy wanderer (Josh Hartnett) who both arrive into a town that is “east of the Atlantic” by way of train. This town is ruled by a ruthless crime lord known as Nicola, the Woodcutter (Ron Perlman), who rules the city with an iron fist from the safety of an army of red suited minions and a cabal of eight personal murderers who carry out his dirty work.
Both Yoshi and the drifter have BUSINESS. The film tries to keep some mystery here, but you know before long they’re going to be knocking at Nicola’s door. What you need to watch for here is the journey the two men take, under the somewhat sketchy wing of a bartender who also doubles (triples?) as a pop-up book enthusiast and impromptu mentor for the two men. He’s played by Woody Harrelson, for the record.
Okay, enough plot. There is always so precious little of it in these kung fu beat down movies. What I really wanted to talk about in this article is Bunraku as a film. I even took notes! Something that I haven’t done since the Fifth Element article, but I refuse to link it because it doesn’t need more attention.
Bunraku is several genres in one. There are only passing references to the apocalypse, and Yoshi and the drifter provide ample amounts of cowboy and kung fu references. There’s also a hint of Westside Story in there as well, especially at the very beginning when we face down some poor sap’s ill-fated attempt to wrest Nicola from his HORRIBLE CRIME EMPIRE. The film also kind of pings in the same way that Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World did, and several sections seem like something you’d expect from a video game, with the accompanying sound effects.
What really drew me into the film the most was the scenery. As I said earlier, the film starts off with a paper craft intro that sets the stage for the whole film. Scenery gives off the impression of a well crafted paper city, and during scene changes you can actually see buildings inflate and pop up like sections from the bartender’s books. It sets a definite, surreal tone for the entire film that actually kept my attention. I haven’t been able to watch a two hour film without getting bored since… good lord, I don’t even know when. I usually am doodling while I watch movies. I did not do such things this time around.
But there are still negatives, as there are in every film. Some of the dialogue… didn’t make a whole lot of sense, but since Bunraku is a weird film I was able to pass it off pretty easily. Also, for a kung fu cowboy beat down film (I vote we officially make this into a genre and wedge it between “action” and “adventure,” just for kicks) the action scenes are just passable. There are a few notable scenes of combat, but don’t be expecting any Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon shenanigans.
Bunraku may be a mediocre film, but it was unique enough to keep my attention. Be warned, though… once you watch this you’re going to have as hard of a time as I did in this article trying to explain it to someone else. The price we must pay for watching weird movies.