The second of three movies on Friday September 17th, Bunraku on the surface gave vibes of Kill Bill, Sin City and other highly stylized dystopian revenge films of our generation. A concept fantasy film that has a gunslinger/boxer (Josh Hartnett) and a samurai (Gackt) as partnering heroes both seeking vengeance on the same man, what can possibly go wrong? Well, let me enlighten you.
WARNING: The following review may contain spoilers for Guy Moshe’s Bunraku.
Bunraku is Guy Moshe’s first big budget film and he chose an attractive story that has potential to be great and very entertaining. Unlike The Return of Chen Zhen, in which its style is grounded by world history, iconic martial arts, and most importantly reality, Bunraku is based in an alternate universe that is filled with fantasy. Not to say that highly stylized films based in alternate worlds are all lackluster, as mentioned before, Kill Bill, Sin City, and more recently Scott Pilgrim VS The World did very well.
Stemming from the traditional Japanese puppet theater called Bunraku, the film’s central motif was to have the narrative unfold like a pop-up book, which is very apparent in the transitions, or a puppet theater. However this key motif that’s supposed to ground even the most stylized, superhuman, fantastical stories, begins to shift and deteriorate as the film went on. Comic book, video game, and other cinematic styles began to creep up and take over this “bunraku” theme at certain short periods of the film. Tarantino’s Kill Bill managed to contain the many national cinematic traits in his revenge tale through clear structure and strong characters. Bunraku on the other hand was a little messy, and long.
When the film is meant to a high-action, highly styled vengeance flick, I was already losing interest halfway through. However, I do look forward to its December theatrical release to watch it again, because with better concise editing, Bunraku could possibly achieve its intended high action, highly violent, and highly stylized vibe.
Next up, review on Lee Chang-dong’s Poetry!