Case Number 22748: Small Claims Court


Arc Entertainment // 2010 // 125 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Roy Hrab (Retired) // November 17th, 2011

The Charge

"Sh! Did you hear that...? My bed is calling me."

The Case

Can a film make no sense? Well, Bunraku gets pretty close, which isn't surprising for a that film describes itself as a blend of "samurai films, spaghetti westerns, film noir and graphic novels..." Quite.

Set in a dystopian future where guns are banned, or no longer exist (or something like that), is a city overrun by thugs. The head bad dude is the dreadlocked Nicola the Woodcutter (Ron Perlman, Hellboy), who carries an axe and sometimes chops wood with his axe. Mostly, he uses his axe to kill people. Nicola's main killer henchman is #2 (Kevin McKidd, Topsy-Turvy). Killer #2 does a lot of...umm...killing.

One day a mysterious man with no name (Josh Hartnett, Wicker Park) rides (on train) into town. A Japanese samurai (Gackt, a Japanese Popstar) also rides that same train. Both come to take down Nicola for reasons related to revenge, I think. What happens next is anyone's guess. And I'm not just saying that. Really. I don't know how to explain what happened. It didn't make sense. Plus, on top of everything else, Woody Harrelson (The Messenger) and Demi Moore (Disclosure) make appearances. Why? What's going on?

On the other hand, Bunraku is accomplished stylistically. The set design captures the feel of a comic book/graphic novel/anime. (The movie was filmed entirely in the studio.) Director Guy Moshe (Holly) know this and makes sure that nobody misses it by letting his camera film from a variety of angles and using a variety of visual gimmicks, like speech bubbles and drop-down tags identifying Nicola's henchmen. Indeed, it's impossible to ignore the amount of attention paid to the aesthetic composition of the film.

Of course, this leads to the question: why such attention to these particular details? The answer is that, aside from the visuals, the emperor has no clothes. There are better movies with similar looks, like Sin City, that also have interesting and coherent stories to tell. Instead, Bunraku clocks in at around two hours; it doesn't have enough story to fill half that time. The film is propelled forward only by its many fight sequences, but once you've seen the first dozen brawls, the next dozen or so lack, pardon the expression, any punch. They're just boring, leaving nothing but a mess of boring characters wandering around aimlessly, throwing the occasional punch and muttering some nonsense.

As noted, the visuals are impressive. The film does look like a comic book, complete with bright colors and sharp detail. There is some grain, but nothing to complain. The surround audio transfer is also very good. Dialogue, music, effects, and all those kicks and punches come through loud and clear and over and over again.

The disc has two only extras: a commentary track with Moshe and McKidd, plus a trailer. The commentary focuses on production design and style. Much like the film, the commentary runs out of steam before the end credits.

Bunraku is a bunch of good movies smashed together. Smashing things together usually ruins them. That's definitely true in this case.

The Verdict


Review content copyright © 2011 Roy Hrab; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 40

Perp Profile
Studio: Arc Entertainment
Video Formats:
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)

* None

Running Time: 125 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated R

Distinguishing Marks
* Commentary
* Trailer

* IMDb

* Official Site