05th Jun2018

Movies You May Have Missed: ‘Bunraku’

by Phil Wheat

Welcome to the latest installment in our regular Movies You May Have Missed series here on Nerdly, in which I highlight some of, what I think, are the best movies that have flown under the radar of many or have been “forgotten” in the intervening years since its release. This time round its the amazing “balletic” action flick Bunraku

bunraku-poster

Stars: Josh Hartnett, Gackt, Woody Harrelson, Ron Perlman, Kevin McKidd, Demi Moore | Written and Directed by Guy Moshe

Official Synopsis:

A mysterious drifter (Hartnett) and an ardent young Japanese warrior Yoshi (Japanese superstar Gackt), both arrive in a town that is terrorized by outrageous and virulent criminals. Each is obsessed with his separate mission, and guided by the wisdom of The Bartender (Harrelson) at the Horseless Horseman Saloon, the two eventually join forces to bring down the corrupt and contemptuous reign of Nicola (Perlman), the awesomely evil “woodcutter” and his right hand man Killer #2 (McKidd).

My Thoughts:

Take one part Sin City, one part Kill Bill, add a dash of Django and a splash of Cool World, mix together with copious amounts of mood lighting, martial arts and Marvel Comics and you have Bunraku – an awesome mix of both the Samurai and Western genres wrapped up in the stylings of Japanese puppet theatre (yes fact fans, bunraku is the term given to a form of Japanese puppet theatre). Looking like a marriage of comic book and stage play, Bunraku is, to put it bluntly, awesome. Not only awesome in the fact that it is a damn good movie but also in the traditional meaning of the word – it actually inspires awe. In fact forget any comparisons to Sin City, with this film director Guy Moshe has put together a movie that looks unlike any other. Literally.

Storywise,  Bunraku has more in common with the video game No More Heroes than any of its filmic counterparts, featuring as it does a “top ten” of killers, all of whom – apart from Perlman’s #1 – are sans name. The stories are very similar – a stranger (or in this case two) walks into town looking to take on the villain that controls the area, but to get to him he must fight through both the villains minions and the ranked killers… Like any good action movie despite a flimsy, and easy to follow, plot, there’s still plenty of substance to the this tale of revenge, mainly thanks to the gorgeous visuals and stunning fight sequences.

If I had one criticism of Bunraku, its that the cast of characters are rather one-dimensional, their goals and aims are laid out in their introductions and there’s no wavering off their set path. They play more as stereotypes – the quiet stranger, the samurai, the bartender, the killer, the despot – but then that’s often the case with action movies, and given all the effort put into the visuals and the fight choreography, stereotypical characters can be forgiven.

John Woo’s films have often been described as bullet-ballets, well director Moshe stages EVERY fight in Bunraku like a ballet, with each characters fighting style choreographed like a dance of death. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen, which is this day and age of remakes, rehashes and sequels is incredibly refreshing. If you’re a fan of action movies and think you’ve seen everything the genre can throw at you, think again…

Where to find it:

If you’re in the US and want a physical copy, Bunraku can be found in the bargain bins at many a Dollar Tree. Meanwhile here in the UK the film is available on DVD, Blu-ray and on VOD services such as Amazon Prime, Google Play and iTunes.

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