Still courtesy of TIFF.
Between sci-fi cowboys and zombie comedies, mashups have been gaining steadily in popularity amongst the genre nut crowd. It was only a matter of time before someone decided to take it to the next level, which is what Guy Moshe has done with Bunraku. Categorization of Moshe’s second feature gets a bit tricky, but it could be described as a post-apocalyptic martial arts neo-noir western samurai flick. Moshe picks and chooses his favourite elements from half the sections in the video store, and somehow marries them all together into one thoroughly entertaining product.
Josh Hartnett stars as a quintessential man with no name, a fedora-sporting cowboy in a world without guns, who turns his simplistic two-fisted brawling into a form of elegant combat. He encounters a compassionate swordsman seeking to restore his family’s honour, played with unexpected aplomb by Japanese pop star Gackt. The two are united by an enigmatic bartender (Woody Harrelson) in their quest to take down the shadowy big boss (Ron Perlman). The only weak link in the cast is a woefully useless Demi Moore, though such a failing is easily overshadowed by the sheer joy of dour-faced Kevin McKidd channeling Fred Astaire via A Clockwork Orange as the boss’s soft-shoeing enforcer.
Beyond brilliant genre conceits and a talented cast, the true goldmine of the film is its visual style. Moshe somehow finds a way to mix hyper-realism (à la Zack Snyder) with a minimalistic set design in which nearly everything seems to be constructed of folded paper. Even the backdrops are two-dimensional expanses, as in the puppet shows for which the film is named. With everything sifted through a sumptuous colour palette and framed with sweeping pans and clever transitions, the whole experience is pure, unadulterated fun.