Friday, 22 December 2017
In a post-apocalyptic world without guns, the most powerful man is Nicola the Woodcutter. Backed by his nine Killers, who are numbered two through ten - the implication presumably is that Nicola himself is number one - and an army of red-clad soldiers, the Woodcutter is pretty much a feudal lord. His goons extort money from the local businesses, run all the local vice, intimidate the workers, and generally make life miserable for everyone.
And then two strangers come to town, each with their own agenda, but each equally destined to come into conflict with the Woodcutter and his flunkies. Brought together by a local barkeep, whose own motivations involve a woman that Nicola stole, the pair punch, kick and swordfight their way to a final showdown with the bad guys.
Bunraku obviously owes some debt to Yojimbo (via A Fist Full of Dollars) in its script, though it jettisons the iconic "playing two groups of bad guys off against each other" theme to just make it a straight up revenge/justice tale. That more simple structure doesn't do it a lot of favours really, and neither does the overwrought and far too frequent narration that bangs on and on, telling you stuff that they could have just shown you.
The film takes its name from a type of Japanese puppet show, and the most memorable aspect of the movie is its visual style, which appears to be consciously modelled on the sets and design you might expect from said puppet show. There's a scene where characters look through a set of trees that look like they're woodcut models, for instance. This concept often works quite nicely, but there are times when it goes a bit astray. Still, it's probably the main reason to check out the film at all: I certainly wouldn't recommend it for the script.