Josh Hartnett's emerging from a quiet period with a one-of-a-kind return movie: "Bunraku."
If you're unfamiliar with the term (yeah, "if," right) it's Japanese for puppet theater. The project is a kind of martial arts Punch and Judy show. It all takes place in a stylized world with garish stage lighting and computer-generated sets that resemble the folded popups in a children's book.
The look is as stylized as "Sin City," (another Hartnett project), with a similar ratio of existential tough talk to butt-kicking. Hartnett plays a "Man With No Name" character knoen as "The Drifter," so you get a sense of where this is going. It debuted last year a the fantasy-friendly Fantastic Fest fanboy conclave, earning so-so reviews. The entertainment website Film School Rejects yawned, "boring with no real standout action sequences, no memorable quotes, no emotional investment in any of the characters and no funny moments."
I don't know how you can say that, when it features Woody Harrelson as a seen-it-all bartender summarizing the plot for us right there onscreen. "Gangbusters," drawls the Woodman. "A cowboy, in a world without guns, and a samurai with no sword team up to defeat a common evil."
The movie co-stars Demi Moore, Ron Perlman and Japan's favorite rock star-action movie hero hyphenate Gackt. I love the name Gackt. Why can't American actors have cool momonyms like that? Gossip magazines would be so much more fun. It's already working for Snooki and JWOWW. Get on this, people.
"Bunraku" appears on video on demand Sept. 1 and in limited theatrical release Sept. 30. Meanwhile, here's the trailer: