“Bunraku,” director Guy Moshe’s latest picture, is, as leading man Gackt so eloquently (and confusingly) described to MTV News in an exclusive interview, “a Cowboy meets Samurai meets Mafia action flick. It’s an action-packed movie unlike any other, mixing various genres in the style of Japanese puppetry.” Confusing, yes, but pretty much spot on: no matter how you slice it, “Bunraku” is nothing if not unique.
In a future where bullets have been outlawed and hand-to-hand combat has become the primary method of conflict resolution, the ruthless Nicola the Woodcutter (Ron Perlman) rules the world east of the Atlantic with the aid of nine deadly assassins. But Nicola has a target on his back as well: a Drifter (Josh Hartnett) wanders into town with a thirst for whiskey and a hunger for blood, while the samurai Yoshi (Gackt) also comes calling with his sights set on the Woodcutter. Initially adversaries, Yoshi and the Drifter have to put aside their differences if they’re to stand a chance at achieving their quests for vengeance.
Check out five reasons why you should see “Bunraku” past the jump.
In a lot of ways, “Bunraku” almost feels more like a video game than a movie -- it’s practically criminal that you can only watch and not play. That’s not a knock, mind you: the world of “Bunraku,” populated by flashy characters, bright colors and endless battles that play out like RPG-inspired random encounters, is incredibly rich and detailed; it’s a world that is positively fueled by imagination in its inception, and one that game and action lovers won’t be able to resist immersing themselves in.
There’s no better example of just how video game-esque “Bunraku” is than a sequence at the midpoint of the film where Josh Hartnett’s character, the Drifter, has to break into a prison. The entire scene is one endless battle, with Drifter punching and kicking his way through opponent after opponent, all from an angle that seems ripped straight out of a side-scrolling fighting game; think “Final Fight” meets “Donkey Kong.” It’s just one of the many inventive fight scenes that “Bunraku” executes so well.
Hartnett and Gackt
But it’s not all about fighting, even if the Drifter insists it is. “Bunraku” would be nothing without its two leads, played with total confidence by Hartnett and Gackt. But it’s not just their individual cool customers that seal the deal: it’s the interplay between the two of them. Reluctant allies are always the most entertaining to watch, and both actors do a great job at keeping both their rivalry and their begrudgingly mutual admiration front and center throughout the film.
Killer Number Two
No disrespect towards the film’s two heroes, but they’re not the ones who steal the show. That honor goes to Kevin McKidd, who kicks all kinds of ass as the deranged Killer Number Two, lieutenant to Nicola. A man who more than lives up to his name (though not in the juvenile sense, mind you), McKidd’s performance is flashy and flamboyant and dangerous at every turn. And his final scene in the film? It’s a gut-wrencher, no doubt about it.
The Final Fight
Considering the heavy amount of combat featured in “Bunraku,” the final showdown of the film is certainly... unexpected. It’s not the kind of encounter you’d necessarily predict based on the movie’s momentum, but it works excellently, and provides us with the greatest kill move “Bunraku” has to offer.
"Bunraku" is currently playing in select theaters.