Josh Hartnett in Bunraku (2010)

Sensational Style Over Little Substance

In a future where gun violence became so every day that man became immune to it the gun is outlawed. Instead honour is fought through the sword and who ever is the top killer with the best henchmen rules which is how comes the Nicola the Woodcutter (Ron Pearlman) and his Gang of Killers are in charge of Little Westworld. Enter the Drifter (John Hartnett) who arrives at the town's saloon where the Bartender (Woody Harrelson) works looking for a game of cards despite cards being outlawed. He is not the only stranger to arrive in town as Yoshi (Gackt), the samurai, has arrived on a quest set by his father to retrieve an amulet. Needless to say paths cross in the most violent of manners as revenge is sought.

For about 15 minutes "Bunraku" had my attention as it delivered this fantastic visual opening which took us from creative use of puppets to tell a back story in to this surreal world which looks like the buildings have been made out of origami. It also featured the out of the world sort of action which you only get in Eastern cinema, or at least get done right in Eastern cinema as people spin through the air, defying the laws of physics as swords are swing with pin point precision.

Gackt in Bunraku (2010)

So what happened after 15 minutes, well more of the same, in fact another 110 minutes of the same as "Bunraku" is a movie which trades on the creative style; be it the sets or the out of the world action which has a blood thirsty nature at times. The trouble is that if you need more than style you are going to be left wanting due to the derivative nature of the storyline with everything you need to know delivered during the opening 15 minutes. In fairness there was a time when 15 minutes of story and the rest style would have worked for me but not now and whilst I can applaud the intricate choreography and cinematography I needed more.

Because the focus of "Bunraku" is on the style it would be fair to say that the actors are cast to play quirky characters rather than characters with depth and they all achieve this. But again it is a case of style over substance and whilst it is entertaining and amusing to have Woody Harrelson as a wise bartender with a thing for creating pop-up books I wanted more from the characters than cut out figures.

What this all boils down to is that 20 years ago I would have loved "Bunraku" as it is almost 2 hours of style over substance with lots of action, creative imagery and quirky characters. But now I needed more than just style over substance and sadly it didn't offer it.