I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a film so in love with it’s perception of how cool it thinks it is. Bunraku really thinks it’s cool. It’s the hot high school kid in the leather jacket who lights his cigarettes under a dark shade, but when it comes to talking to girls all that comes out is, “…….I’ve got jock itch…..” Only when Bunraku says it it isn’t funny. It’s tragic.
Josh Hartnett plays a drifter (that cool kid in the leather jacket, except not wearing that. He has cigarettes though) in search of a man named Nicola (Ron Perlman), a ruthless killer who employs nine decreasingly less ruthless killers to do his bidding. His Killer number 2 (named Killer #2) is played by Kevin McKidd who may be the most fun character in the piece if not for Woody Harrelson as the bartender who isn’t written nearly as fun as a Woody Harrelson bartender should be, especially considering we know how hilarious a Woody Harrelson bartender can be. Rounding out the cast is Japanese actor Gackt (yes, real name) also on the trail of a man with a specific medallion. I won’t spoil who that is.
The film gets credit for having a particularly unique visual aesthetic that’s equal parts Sin City and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I imagine that element had a small hand in helping the film get financed as it is unquestionably the highlight of the picture. It’s consistently interesting to look at, but most everything else occupying the space is consistently uninteresting and gets looked right through. It isn’t so much a fault of the actors who do fine with little, but the film’s attempt at cool lacks any form of vocal, or athletic snap to match the environment. It’s like watching Sin City without the catchy dialogue and narration and watching West Side Story performed by people who don’t dance.
I wish there were more things to compliment, but frankly the picture is rather boring with no real standout action sequences, no memorable quotes, no emotional investment in any of the characters and no funny moments beyond a character choosing to air-cartwheel his exit from a room for no real reason. That was spontaneous and funny. A film isn’t necessarily required to have all, or any of these things in order to be enjoyable, but a film like this does because that’s what it wants to be. It wants to excite you, make you laugh, make you feel a sense of threat or attachment to the relationships – it just doesn’t really do any of those things. It looks pretty though.
If you want to see a stylish picture of a guy working his way through a team of killers to ultimately end up with a one-on-one against the big badass then visit, or revisit, Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World. It’s funnier, which is a little disheartening considering Bunraku has a prevalent role for Woody Harrelson; it’s got better action sequences, which is a little disheartening considering Bunraku stars actual action film actors instead of Michael Cera; and it’s got a better end boss badass which is disheartening considering Ron Perlman could eat Jason Schwartzman. If you have a fetish for hearing Josh Hartnett talk (and I wouldn’t blame you if you did), or have an interest in the color wheel then Bunraku might be worth your time. Might.