[TETSUO: THE BULLET MAN screens Saturday April 9th at 11:59pm at the Cedar Lee Theatre.]
Review by Bob Ignizio
When Shinya Tsukamoto's TETSUO THE IRON MAN came out in 1989, its black and white cyberpunk visuals were fresh and visceral. The film boasted a semi-incoherent plot tied to the classic theme of technology exerting a destructive and dehumanizing influence on society, to the point that total destruction seems the only sane course of action by the end. It may not have been a great film, but it was visually arresting and weird enough to earn itself a place in the pantheon of cult cinema. A sequel, 1992's TETSUO II: BODY HAMMER, delivered more of the same, but in color this time.
Now, almost 20 years since the last installment, Tsukamoto returns to the series he's best known for. As was the case with BODY HAMMER, TETSUO: THE BULLET MAN is more a different take on the same material than an actual sequel, kind of like THE EVIL DEAD 2 was to THE EVIL DEAD. Once again, a seemingly ordinary man (Erick Bossick) slowly transforms into a living mechanized weapon and wreaks a great deal of havoc in the process. Where the first film just went with the basic concept and didn't bother trying to explain or rationalize it, the sequels both try to give something resembling a logical, science based explanation for how and why the “Tetsuos” come into existence. Not that it really makes any more sense that way, but I guess some people need explanations, even loopy ones.
Once again, the highlights are the makeup effects and scenes of kinetic violence. On that front, at least, THE BULLET MAN does not disappoint. Familiarity with the first two films doesn't seem to be especially necessary, especially considering the apocalyptic endings of both which each successive film simply ignores. In fact, not having seen the previous films would probably make this a more fresh, and therefore enjoyable, movie watching experience. Otherwise it may feel a bit too much like deja vu. It probably bears noting that this time around, Tsukamoto has opted to shoot his film in English rather than Japanese. So all you fans of really bizarre films who refuse to read subtitles can rejoice. 2 1/2 out of 4 stars.