I have 491 movies in my Netflix Instant queue. I tend to watch one thing for every five that I add, but now my library is close to being full and I have to make room. So, every Monday I’m going to pick a random movie out of my queue and review the shit out of it. But (like Jesus), I’m also thinking of you and your unwieldy queue and all the movies in it you want to watch but no longer have the time to now that you’ve become so awesome and popular. Let me know what has been gathering digital dust in your Netflix Instant library and I’ll watch that, too. One Monday for you and the next for me and so on. Let’s get to it.
What’s the movie? Bunraku (2011)
What’s it rated? R for computer generated blood, Josh Hartnett’s serious face and a dude named Gackt.
Did people make it? Written by Boaz Davidson and Guy Moshe. Directed by Guy Moshe. Acted by Josh Hartnett, Gackt, Woody Harrelson, Ron Perlman, Kevin McKidd, Demi Moore, Shun Sugata, Emily Kaiho and the vocal stylings of Mike Patton.
What’s it like in one sentence? An Eastern\Western revenge tale filtered though video games, Japanese puppet theatre, CG backgrounds, melodrama and a pop-up book.
Why did you watch it? The illustrious Gabe T used the word “ridiculous” to describe it.
What’s it about in one paragraph? I dunno, man. I guess Ron Perlman is a woodcutter who runs a post-apocalyptic Japanese village and has 10 killers protecting him, including a bespectacled and bowler hatted Kevin McKidd. Josh Hartnett is a mysterious drifter named Drifter (convenience, thy name is movie), who wants to kill The Woodcutter for revengional purposes and Gackt is a mysterious swordless samurai named Yoshi who’s looking for a golden dragon medallion that belonged to his dead father (which The Woodcutter is in possession of). Woody Harrelson is a bartender named The Bartender (yep) who once was a warrior, but became a bartender after The Woodcutter stole Demi Moore from him and also because he can probably make a wicked Greyhound. But Demi Moore is unhappy with being married to The Woodcutter because he’s Ron Perlman with creepy white dreads (and plus, he’s always chopping that wood). So, all of these storylines converge multiple times throughout the movie and people fight and act stoic. All of this is followed by credits and some disclaimers and then we get to return to our lives, such as they are.
Play or remove from my queue? Fuck man, I don’t know. Maybe? Gabe T was right when he called this fucking thing “ridiculous”, but other words that might have sufficed would be “recockulous” or “special” or even a gradually receding succession of fart noises. It’s awesome to look at most of the time and has some of the most stupefying filmic moments I’ve seen in a film since Birdemic, but it’s also a solid half hour longer than it should be and is really flabby for big chunks of the running time. Plus, the fight choreography is lacking in awesomeness most of the time, with a trapeze fight being the only standout. Yes, the two fighters swing at each other from opposing trapezes and then fight on the bouncy netting…as Mike Patton shares his feelings on the situation through overwritten voiceover. That really sounds so much more amazing than it is in the actuality of our shared universe.
Half of the actors are fully committed to telling what (internally, I’m assuming) they feel to be a serious story, while the other half are hamming it up and playing to the cheap seats. Ron Perlman brings a real tired weight to the role of The Woodcutter, but he might have just had a big lunch and Demi Moore is actually very good in a role that gives her absolutely nothing of import to do. When the two of them are together, you get a real sense of what this movie was going for (which I’m pretty sure was just existing as a film). Woody and Kevin McKidd go big, but I don’t think, with the way the roles were written, it would have worked any other way. They’re both good, just not subtle in the same ways Moore and Perlman are. Finding a middle ground are our two heroes. Gackt looks bored throughout the film (especially in his fight scenes, which is weird), but I think that was just him trying to portray “badass” and “fucking samurai awesomeness) and most of the time it works. Hartnett is a one note tough guy (whose fighting style is, I swear to Christ, punching people really hard over and over (I think it’s called FacePunching). But he plays the note well the same way he did in Sin City and The Black Dahlia and it works ok.
The acting is surprisingly fine for a movie like this, even with the hackneyed and tin eared dialogue they have to spout. If it’s not a cliche’ they’re saying, it’s some psuedo-mystical philosophy bullshit that made me wish myself tinnitus. Mike Patton’s voiceover work is cool because it’s Mike Patton, but the shit they make that poor man say is depressing and downright criminal. I dunno, if this had a great script that was more interested in its over-abundance of characters instead of its paper thin excuse for a plot, then the unique and interesting visual style would really make the film something special. Instead we’re left with boring scenes of exposition punctuated by (mostly) poorly choreographed fight scenes. I mean, a scene with Hartnett FacePunching 20 or so tumblers (flipping around and hooting like they’re waiting for Rufio to show up) manages to be boring, yet still induces a laughing fit. A bad one that makes you mad once you dry the eyes.
So, yeah. Play it if you must. It does have a few entertaining moments and the sheer Whatthefuckness of it all is pretty staggering, but maybe just fast forward to the parts you “think” will be “good” and leave all the clumsy plotting and whatnot behind. Once the video game sound effects show up, you’re too far down the rabbit hole to realize that maybe, just maybe, you’re getting too old for this shit.
Do you have a favorite line? Ron Perlman trying to sell the line “All this fighting. It’s not who’s right. It’s who’s left” is like watching Van Gogh paint with his balls.
Do you have an interesting fun-fact? There’s an awesome Faith No More quote in the movie. If you find it you win a small modicum of your self respect back.
What does Netflix say I’d like if I like this? Clash (looks fun), Hard Revenge Milly: Bloody Battle (I think I’m good), The Crow (Ahhhhh, memories), Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (if you haven’t seen this you owe it to yourself) and The Boondock Saints (ahahahhahahahhahah).
What does Jared say I’d like if I like this? This movie done right= Kung Fu Hustle.
What is Netflix’s best guess for Jared? 2.9
What is Jared’s best guess for Jared? 1.9
Can you link to the movie? I sure can!
Any last thoughts? The production design and opening sequence are truly incredible. That is all.
Did you watch anything else this week? The newest Pirates of the Caribbean (eh) and I started Boardwalk Empire, which is pretty tasty so far.
Any spoilerish thoughts about last week’s film, Meek’s Cutoff? I really don’t like that ending the more I think about it. The ambiguity is nice, but all the themes of the film and all the foreshadowing it so carefully crafted are left hanging. I suppose I could look up what really happened on thee Internets, but I don’t think I should have to.
Next Week? Noise? The Australian one, not the Tim Robbins one.