Writer-director Guy Moshe clearly had a vision for his film, and together with a fantastic cast led by Josh Hartnett and international newcomer Gackt (though he’s already a famous Japanese musician/actor) and supported by Woody Harrelson, Kevin McKidd, Ron Perlman, and Demi Moore, he saw the realization of that vision into an utterly creative film that just doesn’t stop giving. From start to finish, it’s an explosive film that will blow your mind.
Much like Sin City has been praised for the creativity of its production and has gained cult status, Bunraku is just as worthy of such praise and status, and not only because Hartnett is a thread that connects the two films. Both are very different, yet very similar in that they succeed in creating a film that barely compares to the other films being made at the same time, so visually different are they.
Moshe and cinematographer Juan Ruiz Anchía, who has since worked with Hartnett on I Come With The Rain, shot the entirety of the film in a Romanian studio, for budget reasons, creating their terrific and impressive sets in the studios and using green screens for all of the unbelievably awesome visual effects the films features. It gives the film a very contained feel, which is perfect because it allows them to very naturally create a whole new world within which this film is set. But it is one part of the world reigned over by one evil ruler, making the contained feel of the sets very part. It is a world, as Woody Harrelson’s character The Bartender says, which sees,
“A cowboy with no gun and a samurai with no sword team up to defeat a common evil.”
Hartnett plays the role of the gunless cowboy so well, in what is one of my favourite roles from him, having an air of mystery and silence about him that naturally makes him all the more interesting as a character. Gackt, too, gives an excellent performance as the samurai, and I’m looking forward to seeing whether his international debut will gain him some attention and get him cast in more films beyond Japan in years to come. And Harrelson, as he always is, is a genius as The Bartender; no one could have done it better.
It is the job of Hartnett, Gackt, and Harrelson to take down the evil lord Nicola ruling this town, as played by the immovable Ron Perlman, who brings a dominating presence to the role with ease (one need only take a look at him in Hellboy to be convinced), with Kevin McKidd playing his right-hand man, Killer No.2, and Demi Moore playing the love interest, Alexandra, caught under Nicola’s power and pregnant with his child.
Ultimately, the story boils down to a tale of good vs. evil, as many stories do. But it is the way in which it is told, and the way in which it is so uniquely shot, that make it such an incredible film. It’s a film worth watching, worth talking about, worth forcing upon your friends just so you can discuss it with them because you know how much they’ll love it and you need somebody to talk to about it. Sadly, perhaps because of its uniqueness, it didn’t get to see the light of day in UK cinemas – and very few cinemas in the States too – and so it is perhaps also a film that may have some difficulty in finding its target audience.
But if you’re still reading this, there’s a very good chance that that target audience includes you, and I really do urge you to seek this movie out. Moshe is an immensely talented director, and he has made nothing short of an epic film with Bunraku. Not epic in its scale and number of extras on the screen, but epic in its sheer brilliance. It is a film that would have looked so good in the cinema on a big screen, but nonetheless looks incredible on Blu-Ray, a format I highly recommend you watch this in if at all possible to enjoy the film’s full experience. I can’t wait to see what Moshe brings us next.
Bunraku has been released on DVD/Blu-Ray today, and I cannot recommend enough how much you should go and pick this up.
The copy that I’m reviewing didn’t actually come with any extras, and I can’t find any extras listed anywhere else, which is a great shame, because I would have loved to have seen some of the Making Of or Behind the Scenes work on this film. But alas, it appears it was not to be. Despite this lack of special features though, it is definitely still worth checking out this awesome film if you have the chance; it won’t disappoint.