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Tetsuo: The Bullet Man

May 27, 2010

Tetsuo: The Bullet Man (2010 Final Cut) – 3/5

Shinya Tsukamoto’s third Tetsuo project had a rough way to the cinema screens. Originally intended to be shot in USA, the film eventually found form as an English language movie taking place in central Tokyo (where else would Tsukamoto set his iron nightmares?). A handful negative reviews following the 2009 Venice Film Festival screening, and possibly the internet fan hysteria that resulted, got the director on his feet. Tsukamoto went back to the cutting room and re-edited his film. The Japanese opening was pushed back to spring 2010.

Enormous expectations turned overstated criticism, the new Tetsuo eventually lands somewhere in between the two. While not comparable to the original cyber punk classic by any means, it is certainly a fluent if flawed film, somewhat like Tetsuo II but without the early 90’s atmosphere that made that film a semi-classic. The storyline is similar to The Body Hammer, with Tokyo based American business man Anthony (Eric Bossic) struggling to keep his temper in control. The death of his son ultimately unleashes Anthony’s transformation into a walking weapon.

Tsukamoto’s decision to shoot the film in English may give gray hairs to those not accustomed to listening to Japanese supporting actors speak their lines in non-native language. Within Tetsuo’s already obscure world it doesn’t, however, really feel all that strange. Fashionable contrast-adjusting hurts the film a bit more, although it’s the lightning fast editing and shaky camerawork that are the film’s biggest shortcomings. While Anthony’s uncontrollable bursts of rage never should look like choreographed ballet, it does occasionally become too difficult to see what exactly is going on in the action scenes.

The previous Tetsuo films – especially the first one – dealt with strong sexual undertones. These are missing from The Bullet Man, which gives a brief spotlight on family life before quickly sliding to the industrial nightmare imagery. On this field the new Tetsuo, while falling far from its potential, is at its most entertaining. Rough edged man mutates into metal junk movies can never be too many in number. Special effects work is also convincing with plenty of traditional handwork on display. Small references – opening credits in the fashion of the original Tetsuo, Tomorowo Taguchi’s cameo – and of course Tetsuo composer Chu Ishikawa’s heavy soundtrack also make up for some the film’s flaws.

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