'Bunraku': one long string of blows A movie review of "Bunraku," a martial-arts melodrama that's all style and no substance. Josh Hartnett plays a nameless drifter who teams up with a Japanese warrior (Gackt) to defeat a tyrant (Ron Perlman).
By John Hartl
Movie review 'Bunraku,' with Woody Harrelson, Demi Moore, Josh Hartnett, Ron Perlman. Written and directed by Guy Moshe. 124 minutes. Rated R for bloody violence and language. In English and Japanese, with ballooned English subtitles. Pacific Place.
If you mixed up the reels in "Bunraku," if you showed Reel 6 before Reel 3, it wouldn't make a lot of difference.
The movie is essentially one long, extensively choreographed fight sequence in which "mortal" blows are delivered so often, and with so little lasting impact, that a brawl just becomes a brawl becomes a brawl. Never mind dramatic context or smart pacing.
The chief distinctions are the art direction and lighting, which consistently suggest a graphic novel/comic strip, complete with balloons that carry subtitles that explain the occasional Japanese-language exchanges.
There is a kind of narrative, something to do with a drifter, a Man With No Name reminiscent of Clint Eastwood but played this time by Josh Hartnett. He teams up with a Japanese warrior (the single-named pop star Gackt) to defeat a tyrant (Ron Perlman) who is protected by nine assassins, including scene-stealing live wire Kevin McKidd.
Demi Moore does what she can with a self-consciously stock femme fatale role, while Woody Harrelson suppresses the temptation to camp it up as a bartender who dispenses dubious wisdom at the Horseless Horseman Saloon.
The impressive cast may have signed on because they liked writer-director Guy Moshe's more intimate 2006 debut picture, "Holly," but this feels like a sophomore slump.
"Bunraku" (the title refers to ancient Japanese puppet theater) has the heavily stylized look of "Sin City" (also with Hartnett), but it generates all the lasting power of a dated video game.