Thoughts: Bunraku HAD to be a passion project and a labour of love, because I can't think of any proper film studio that would OK something as singular as this. The film itself is a bizarre mixture of just about every fanboy genre you can think of, tossed into a very visually unique setting, and the results vary. Some definitely would not like it (and the internet agrees) but me personally, I enjoyed it- for the most part. A trim wouldn't hurt, and a some better acting, and a complete change of soundtrack as well, but despite all this, there is definitely something here to enjoy. The visuals though, they are truly in a class of their own.
Alright, let's see if I can sum up the convoluted story in brief. Uhh, it's the future, and in a town somewhere, gangs vie for control of the city. The city itself is under the rule of the Woodcutters, led by an introspective Ron Perlman. You can challenge the leader anytime, but he mostly let's No. 2 (Kevin McKidd) of his 10 elite "killers" take care of the bouts. Enter 2 strangers into town: The Drifter (Josh Hartnett) and Yoshi (pop-star Gackt). Both are fighters with incredible prowess. Oh! I forgot to mention, guns got outlawed. Anyway, both have hidden agendas, and they'll fight a lot (sometimes with each other) but together, they're gunning for the big man, and nothing can stand in their way. And they'll be assisted along the way by a mysterious bartender played by Woody Harrelson.
It was easier for me to end it there. The film throws in so many genres it gets hard to keep track. You have western, martial arts, samurai, gangster, anime/manga, comicbook, musical, video game. Each scene will blend at least 3 of these, and how you take it is all up to you. I can imagine it would annoy some, infuriate others, but for me, I didn't mind. I was mostly just wondering where the story was heading to next. There isn't really much of a story- it gets kinda lost in the mire- but there is plenty of punching and kicking and slicing and smashing, much more than I was expecting, so you don't get bored too often. The film wears its heart on its sleeve, and I can't fault them for it.
The visuals however, they are in a world of their own. The set design is amazing, the CG one-of-a-kind. The world exists in this sort of pop-up, cartoon, folded paper type setting, and the constantly shifting primary lighting and use of colour combine to give it this very amazing style that has to be seen in motion to be believed. Fights are well staged, and shakycam is practically nowhere to be found. Believe me, no one is doubting the visuals. And the sound effects match as well- each hit is registered with a particular heightened strike, and the music is so dominating it actually becomes a distraction. It's like, Looney Tunes showtunes? It's actually quite irritating.
That said, the fights are great, and every single one varies. There are dusty brawls, and chiaroscuro samurai swordfights. There are fights on trapeze, and in sushi bars. The characters are ready and willing to throwdown anywhere and at anytime, and there is even a fight that is so reminiscent of a flash animation I used to watch as a kid called Xiao Xiao 3 that I swear it had to have been inspiration for the sequence.
Ultimately though, I think the film could have lost some of its length. Already it stands at 125mins, and for a film that's just a patchwork quilt of various genres that the creators wanted to throw out, it is a bit long in the tooth. Perhaps with a more engaging story, yes, but unfortunately as it stands, the film just doesn't warrant a purchase. A viewing yes, definitely, but I could I bring myself to watch it again? I don't think so. Even though it loks amazing and has some great fight sequences, I'll just have to settle for one and done.