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A mysterious drifter (Josh Hartnett) and a young Japanese Warrior Yoshi (Gackt) both arrive in a town that has been terrorized by outrageous and virulent criminals. Each is obsessed with his seperate mission, and guided by the wisdom of The Bartender (Woody Harrelson) at the Horseless Horseman Saloon, the two eventually join forces to bring down the corrupt and contemptuous reign of Nicola (Ron Perlman), the awesomely evil woodcutter and his lady Alexandra (Demi Moore), a femme fatale with a secret past.
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I would advise you to do this when first watching this movie
Just watch and enjoy the ride! Don't nitpick!
Each of the characters I enjoyed during the movie as they come into this odd fantasy
futuristic world where weapons are outlawed.
We meet the Drifter who has an agenda to seek out the great killer Nicola the Woodcutter.
He works by himself and with his wits and fists.
Another also seeks Nicola - the samurai named Yoshi, a slightly naïve man who believes
in a sacred code of honor while trying to help his uncle and cousin.
These two meet at a bar where a man named the Bartender asks them to team up to
defeat Nicola. The bartender is a mysterious quirky man who has a history with
Nicola and seeks to save his town from him.
Nicola is a dangerous man in his own right with his band of nine killers, but now many
years later since establishing his reign, seek to settle down and focus on his legacy.
His woman Alexandra, a fierce woman in her own right, has a secret and seeks to
make a decision on her future. It would have been interesting to do more with
this character and maybe see her fight. We do however get a glimpse into her past.
Each of the killers are interesting with what screen time they each have. (There is
one scene where I thought that the Joker had come out to play - you'll find it! :)
But Killer #2 has a particular finesse to him - seemingly harmless at first - just a fop
or dandy until he kills. . .
Then it all comes together in an awesome showdown that you just have to see.
Also it would have been interesting to have the cousin Mimoko fight, but seeing
the uncle fight was cool!
I have seen this six times and want to see it again! Must watch!
Nicola the Woodcutter commands a horde of red-shirted henchmen, as well as a cadre of elite bodyguards and enforcers designated as Killers #2 thru #10, with these death dealers always vying against each other to rise up in numerical rank. Nicola is, of course, Killer #1. Nicola is so arrogant he allows the townspeople constant opportunity to challenge his proxy in death duels for town supremacy. His proxy, the anonymous Killer #2 (Kevin McKidd), may look like a dandy, but he regularly takes on twenty opponents at the same time and effortlessly carves them up. Killer #2, elegant and graceful, comes off like a sadistic John Steed or - and how's this imagery? - a murderous Fred Astaire.
1972's RED SUN, which featured Charles Bronson and Toshirô Mifune, did it already and probably did it better, the mashing up of the samurai film and the spaghetti western. But BUNRAKU also introduces a sci-fi element, although that's more relegated to the backdrop, there just to establish the premise.
Bunraku, defined, is a form of traditional Japanese puppet theatre. Accordingly, whereas RED SUN had down-to-earth grit, this film espouses a deliberately staged and artificial look, borrowing some from the highly stylized sensibility of SIN CITY, or as the Bartender is wont to label SIN CITY's genre: "pop up funnies." It is technically superb and visually tremendous, but don't be surprised should you sense an emptiness in the narrative. None of the characters felt real. The cowboy stranger gets the archetypal treatment but isn't given much depth or dimension. The cowboy specializes in launching mighty haymakers and the samurai seeks the perfection of jin, the toughest of the Bushido codes to master - and those seem to count heavily as the primary character notes. Near the end, though, the samurai does undergo a fairly fundamental shift in his warrior's credo; it's the only way he could've bested his opponent. The exaggerated dialogue doesn't help things. But I did like Faith No More's frontman Mike Patton's voiceover narration. Patton, leisurely and pseudo-philosophical in his musings, sets the tone early on.
I also think it's cool that Josh Hartnett visually channels Kurt Russell circa TOMBSTONE. It lends him a harder, more weathered look.
Demi Moore is here, playing Ron Perlman's reluctant lady, but she's not the reason to see this bizarre hybrid film. Instead, see BUNRAKU for the colorful visuals, the heightened sensibility, those off-kilter beats, and the boffo, over-the-top action scenes. The samurai Yoshi also has a cousin who is really cute, even if when she tries to use martial arts, she just ends up looking silly.
And, as always, it's never good to be a Red Shirt.
3.5 out of 5 stars for BUNRAKU.
The DVD's bonus stuff:
- Audio Commentary by director Guy Moshe and actor Kevin McKidd
- Theatrical Trailer