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Adam Jahnke - Main Page

Tetsuo: The Bullet Man (DVD)

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Tetsuo: The Bullet Man
2009 (2011) - IFC Films
Released on DVD on June 28th, 2011

Shinya Tsukamoto's 1989 Tetsuo: The Iron Man was a wild, experimental, 16mm exercise in cyberpunk horror unlike anything before or since. His 1992 follow-up, Tetsuo II: Body Hammer, was essentially the same movie, albeit with a somewhat more coherent storyline and a bigger budget for outlandish special effects. Now more than 15 years later, Tsukamoto has finally returned to the Tetsuo series with The Bullet Man. And for better and worse, it's once again not so much a sequel as an alternate retelling of the same basic story.

This time around, our hero is Anthony (Eric Bossick), an American Salaryman living in Tokyo with his Japanese wife and son. When his son is killed right before his eyes, Anthony's long suppressed rage begins to manifest itself as his body painfully begins to transform into iron.

Looking for answers, Anthony discovers an underground lab in the father's home. There, he discovers that his dad was part of the Tetsuo Project, an attempt to create bio-mechanical weaponized men, and his late mother was actually an android recreation of his father's wife. Meanwhile, a guy known only as The Guy (played by Tsukamoto himself) wants to provoke Anthony into full-on human weapon mode for reasons of his own.

Shot primarily in English for the first time and with an American actor in the lead, Tsukamoto seems to be going for a more mainstream audience with this entry. But the results are kind of like what you might expect if David Lynch decided to remake Eraserhead with a bigger budget and a more linear script. This is still a far cry from a movie that's going to win over general audiences.

Almost all of the performances are a little wooden, although Bossick has an interesting screen presence that's kind of like a cross between Bruce Campbell and David Byrne. The movie still has some terrifically bizarre images and the first half especially carries an assaultive, oppressive feeling of dread and malice. But by the end, Tsukamoto doesn't seem entirely sure of what kind of movie he wants to make. The story gets muddled and the action gets increasingly hard to follow. By the end of its brief 72 minutes, you're ready for the movie to be over so you can take a few aspirin and have a lie-down.

It's a little hard to judge the technical aspects of IFC's DVD. Much of the camerawork looks like it was shot by a guy having a seizure in the middle of an earthquake. The disc has a little trouble keeping up with the busiest shots but when the picture calms down for a few seconds, it's a very nice looking presentation. Audio is even harder to gauge. The soundtrack has two speeds: ear-piercingly loud and virtually impossible to hear. The 5.1 mix is dynamic and I'm guessing this is an accurate representation of what Tsukamoto intended. Even so, riding the volume control just so you can hear what the actors are saying without blowing the roof off the place gets old fast. The only extra included is the film's trailer.

After such a long absence and two stunning earlier entries, it's hard not to be a little let down by Tetsuo: The Bullet Man. It's still a loud, in-your-face experience that's unlikely to win over any new fans. But for those of us who've been with Tetsuo since the beginning, it'd be nice if Tsukamoto could come up with something new to do with his weird horror-sci-fi concept.

Film Rating: C+
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A-/B-/D-

Adam Jahnke

Adam Jahnke - Main Page
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