Oh no, a stylish film! Not the good kind like ‘300’, more like the bad kind like ‘The Spirit’! What people are describing as Mortal Kombat meets The Warriors meets Clockwork Orange meets Kung Fu Hustle, this is definitely an East meets West film. In a dystopian city of the future where guns are outlawed, a Man With No Name type stranger (Josh Hartnett) walks into a seedy bar, initially seeking whiskey and a card game, but with a far more serious mission in mind. He is hunted by Yoshi, who is a young Samurai from the East who has been sent on “The Quest” by his father. His mission is to find and retrieve a Dragon Amulet that represents great power for his family…and while he’s at it…to become a man. There is lots on display to enjoy, but in the end it’s all just too much.
Woody Harrelson, who has an almost entirely different line of sight from the rest of the cast, mostly seems inebriated. Demi Moore even pops up and adds absolutely nothing to this film. The star studded cast really left me scratching my head as to why so many of them lazily trodded through this film. Not to mention the occasional incorporation of animation and even dance choreography into the overall aesthetic. 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 ‘ummph’.
The background scenery has an origami look and feel to it and, as the camera pans over “Little Westworld”, the scenery “unfolds” as if it were popping up from pages opening in a pop-up book. Best part of the movie was the very short animation sequences and they really weren’t even all that special either. Looks like they were going for a cross between Kill Bill and Sin City and instead ended up with something more like The Last Samurai Gets Lost on the Way to Little Red Riding Hoods House meets Something Stupid This Way Comes. The scenes change so fast they make your head spin and are reminiscent of Tim Burton as in its really something not seen before or rarely seen in today’s movies. It also sports a comic book feel there are pop-up captions whenever Japanese is spoken and you can’t help but expect a ZING, BOW whenever a fight brakes out.
Unfortunately, it’s when the action slows down that the film struggles, and it slows down a lot. There really is such a thing as too much of a good thing and Bunraku is a prime example of style over substance. There are so many other better east/west films that this horrific attempt to blend the cultures on either side of the Pacific is just really sad. Its a paint by numbers film, that in the end, I felt like I have seen numerous times over. Things happen, battles ensue, people die, and our two lone wolves realize that they have a common enemy and, thus, could benefit from each others’ friendship. If this seems all too familiar, you might be in the same boat as I was. This film gets a limited theatrical run at the end of the month so if you want to see it, that will be your window of opportunity.