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Bunraku (2010), one of the coolest meta-movies on the market!

February 24, 2013

MY CALL: Revenge is an act of style—one that no Kill Bill fan should miss. If you are careful about your expectations, this meta-movie could be a great pick for you. [B+]  IF YOU LIKE THIS, WATCH: Kill Bill (2003), The Good The Bad and The Weird (2008), The Warrior’s Way (2010), Sin City (2005)…maybe even Sucker Punch (2011; which wasn’t good, but had some great scenes and ideas).  SIDEBAR: I have no idea what the name of the movie means.  If they mentioned it in the movie, I missed it, and I miss little in movies.

This appears to be another take on genre-crossing in a genre-style movie.  Previous examples include the wildly successful Sin City movies, popular western splices like The Good The Bad and The Weird and The Warrior’s Way, and the stillborn Sucker Punch.  But all these movies were well-advertised and wide theatrical releases (in Asia, at least, for The Good The Bad and The Weird).  Should I approach this lack of advertising as a snake’s rattle and keep my expectations low?  When I stumbled across this I thought “This movie features Josh Hartnett, Demi Moore, Ron Perlman, Gackt, Woody Harrelson (Game Change, The Hunger Games, Friends With Benefits) and Kevin McKidd (Brave), and I had never heard of it or saw a trailer.  How does that happen?  Is this a weird little gem waiting to be discovered, or an utter Sucker Punch tragedy?”

The opening credits are cleverly presented during an animated story background.  The style was much like that of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One or Hellboy 2: The Golden Army.  When moviemakers really care about a movie, they make an effort to have the opening credits “affect” the viewer somehow.  Even if it’s only music over a black screen, moods are set and pace is foreshadowed.  I’ve commented on the great opening credits of The Good The Bad and The Weird, and that movie was awesome.  This made for a promising start.

In this perhaps futuristic world guns have somehow been banned, making way for a resurgence in swordsmanship and a feudal yakuza-esque gang culture.  A young, Doc Holidayish brawler (Hartnett) and a swordless samurai team up to exact their revenge against the ruthless king of the hill, “The Woodsman” (Ron Perlman; Pacific Rim).  To do so, they must kill their way through leagues of henchman and his nine right hand men, one of which is played by a sleek Kevin McKidd.

This film is VERY stylistic.  The effects and music smack of Scott Pilgrim versus The World with comic book stylings of villainy and a storyline much like Kill Bill.  The combat follows suit, with choreography focusing more on a dance-like technical precision than producing a realistic fight; more like theater than cinema.  In fact, the set designers erected intentionally artificial-looking structures in order to unsubtly accent this feeling.  Sets and wardrobe contain elements of the present, the future, the old west, and the early 1900s.  Many theatrical devices are employed as well.  All of this synergistically produces an other-worldly-meets-Broadway feel.

The style of this movie is rare and difficult to execute. The fights are fun, the scenes are clever, and (with the exception of Demi Moore’s role) the characters were interesting.

You should probably give this a shot.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Bunrakufan permalink
    November 30, 2013 12:46 pm

    One of the most underrated movies I have ever seen. To this day it’s still one of the best ever made.

    • johnleavengood permalink
      November 30, 2013 12:49 pm

      You make me wish there was a “like” button here to affirm that opinion. This comment will have to suffice. LOL

  2. November 30, 2013 8:55 pm

    I watched this movie today based on your recommendation, and was not disappointed. Just wanted to shed some light on the stylized look to it. Bunraku is a form of Japanese puppet/doll theater. A lot of the backgrounds and lighting was reminiscent of this. One scene that really hit it in my opinion was the phone call to Killer #2 towards the beginning where there was a screen to separate both speakers, but still keep them in the same shot.

    • johnleavengood permalink
      November 30, 2013 8:58 pm

      Thanks for the comment Ashley. Adding a bit of flavor to the page…appreciate it. Did you come across this review on Reddit?

  3. Graham permalink
    December 1, 2013 4:31 am

    The is Japanese for Shadow Play which is showcased in the movie with the dark shots and some of the puppetry involved.

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