A mishmash of both the martial-arts and western genres, Bunraku focuses on a nameless man, referred to as Drifter (Josh Hartnett) who has strolled into town looking to exact revenge on the notorious crime lord Nicola the Woodcutter (Ron Perlman). In a world where guns have been banned, Nicola uses nine specific assassins to do his bidding. To get to Nicola, Drifter must team up with a samurai, Yoshi (Gackt), who has his own score to settle, in order to bring down Nicola’s reign. However, one assassin in particular, Killer No. 2 (Kevin McKidd), is determined to ensure that Drifter does not succeed.
Normally I will rally behind any action film that has a unique style, Bunraku has this in spades. You could take several frames from the film and easily convert them into a beautiful poster. Visually speaking, the film is just wonderful. Director Guy Moshe clearly has an astute eye for colour and detail. The set design alone, especially in the jail break scene, is worth seeing.
What hinders Bunraku though, is that the film offers nothing more than pretty visuals. Sure the fight scenes have good choreography, but they are not thrilling. The fights also become repetitive rather quickly. If you are making an action film with a thin plot, you better make sure that the action sequences are outstanding. Sadly only one of the fight scenes is somewhat memorable.
The talented cast is underused for the majority of the film. While it is clear the actors are having fun with their roles, their characters are extremely one dimensional. There is really no reason for Demi Moore to be in the film. Her character, Alexandra, is only there to show that Nicola has weaknesses, which is something that could have easily been established without her. The real standout actors in the film are Woody Harrelson and Kevin McKidd. Harrelson brings a comedic touch to the film as the wise bartender who teaches Drifter and Yoshi how to co-exist. McKidd is fantastic as the cold-blooded Killer No. 2. He brings both style and swagger to the character. Besides the great visuals, McKidd’s work is the only other highlight in Bunraku. If you are expecting something more than pretty visuals, Bunraku is not the film for you.