tek's rating:

Bunraku (R)
IMDb; Rotten Tomatoes; TV Tropes; Wikipedia
streaming sites: Google Play

I feel like I could just as well have put this review under a number of different headings, such as "bad-ass" or "art films," to name just two possibilities. It's sort of a Western noir samurai avant-garde thing... which all adds up to "weird." And it's the film's weirdness that I really dig. (It put me vaguely in mind of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.) I should probably mention that "bunraku" is a form of Japanese puppet theater, but the movie doesn't exactly have anything to do with puppets. The opening scenes/credits are stylized somewhat like a puppet show, I guess... and one of the characters makes sort of pop-up comic books (with a story obviously based on Spider-Man, though I doubt the character had any knowledge of his story's lack of originality). Actually, the whole film is quite stylized, but... just not in a very puppety sort of way.

Okay. Basically, it's a post-apocalyptic dystopian future kinda setting. One doesn't get a clear idea of what the world is like except that there are no guns of any kind... which means people just fight with swords and knives. Incidentally, I also should mention that the whole film is narrated, in a noir-ish fashion. Or whatever. Anyway, there's this one guy named Nicola (Ron Perlman) who rules a town somewhere. He's called the most powerful man East of the Atlantic, but I have no idea where the town actually is. I'm assuming somewhere in Europe, but that doesn't exactly narrow it down, and it could just as well be Africa. Or maybe Asia. Anyway, it doesn't matter. He's got plenty of enemies who are always trying to take him down, but he has nine "killers" who work for him, as well as a small army. Of course, the killers are all pretty bad-ass, though I don't think we actually saw all of them. The most bad-ass of them is #2 (Nicola himself is #1). The plot focuses on two different people who come looking for revenge, or whatever. One is a Western-type antihero (who isn't named), and the other is like a samurai or whatever, named Yoshi. Yoshi basically wants to get back a dragon medallion that I guess Nicola had stolen from his clan. The unnamed drifter's motivation isn't specified until the end, though it's entirely predictable.

Yoshi and the Drifter both wind up in a saloon run by an unnamed barkeep (Woody Harrelson). At first the two of them fight each other (we'd previously seen they're both very bad-ass against Nicola's troops, and they're pretty evenly matched against each other). But before long they sort of join forces, since they have a common enemy. And they receive some help and advice from the barkeep. Who, btw, has his own backstory, which isn't delved into very deeply. But he used to be a bad-ass, himself. And he once had a girlfriend, who left him. Another semi-important character is a woman named Alexandra (Demi Moore), who is sort of Nicola's girlfriend, though she's not exactly happy with that relationship. Also we see Yoshi's unnamed uncle, who worries that the mission Yoshi's father sent him on is going to lead Yoshi down the wrong path (kind of like Owen Lars worrying about Luke Skywalker, I'd say... but not exactly). And Yoshi has a cousin (his uncle's daughter) named Momoko. She seems more approving of Yoshi and the Drifter than her father is.

And, that's about it. The style of the movie is cool, the fights (in case I haven't mentioned it) are bad-ass, there's a bit of subtle humor, a bit of vague philosophizing, and a lot of cross-genre weirdness. The characters aren't that well developed, the story itself is fairly weak, but still I thought it was definitely a fun movie to watch.


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