Where to start when discussing Tetsuo: The Bullet Man? Does one begin with the no-longer-ahead-of-the-curve self-parody the Tetsuo franchise has become with this instalment? Or does one start with the wealth of truly wretched, nigh unwatchable ‘acting’ that recalls high school drama class – only not quite that good? Maybe one should begin with the completely and utterly pointless nature of the whole endeavour? It doesn’t matter because anyone familiar with Tetsuo will be furious at the cynicism that went into making this crap (there’s no credible reason the film should be in English), and newcomers will merely shrug and ask, ‘Who gives a rat’s ass? I’ve seen better in Halo.’
With Tsukamoto Shinya acting as production designer, editor, writer, cinematographer (this time a monochrome blue), director and co-star, there are very few other people at which to point the almighty finger of blame for this debacle. Noisy, nonsensical and – most criminally – self-derivative The Bullet Man has the look and feel of The Ironman on the surface, but none of that film’s currency, innovation or sheer visual audacity (drill-bit phallus anyone?).
Ironman wasn’t exactly narratively tight, but it did manage to create a surreal landscape that transcended sci-fi and/or horror and was one of cinema’s most visceral experiences of all time. You didn’t have to like it, but you could appreciate it. The Bullet Man is a pale comparison. The rapid-fire editing, shaky hand-held camera work and discordant soundtrack originally worked on two levels: It hid the first film’s sorry excuse for a budget and served as a perfect complement to the images. This time around, it’s simply headache-inducing and baffling. Props to Tsukamoto for his creativity the first time around, but you know what? Everyone’s doing it now (perhaps thanks to you, Shinya) and it makes for a tired bit of alleged filmmaking.
The weak attempts at story backfire and there’s no connection to either of the earlier films. Anthony (Eric Bossick, who may or may not be an English teacher that had nothing to do that weekend) is the mutant offspring of his mad scientist father (Stephen Sarrazin, perhaps another Aeon staffer) and his dead mother. Yes that’s right. He was born well after rigor set in – at her request, Dr Mad Scientist created an android version of her, had sex with it (why couldn’t we see that!?), and then had little Anthony. Now Anthony’s son Tom has been targeted for termination (Why? Who knows?) so that Anthony, the dead android salary man, will get really, really pissed off and turn into a human weapon. Or so says The Guy (Tsukamoto, and yes, that’s how he’s credited) who thinks that’s totally hot. Huh?
Cinema is littered with all manner of illogical experiments that relied profoundly on visual creativity to achieve whatever ends they were gunning for. Think David Cronenberg’s Stereo, Terry Gilliam’s Brazil and most obviously David Lynch’s Eraserhead. Usually there’s some kind of subtle comment woven into the texts. The Ironman took a jab at man’s simultaneous connection and unhealthy dependence on technology and the very Cronenberg-esque fetishisation of machinery. The Ironman’s concluding showdown was an orgy for the eyes that brought new meaning to ‘the medium is the message’. In that film, the ‘iron’ will always defeat the ‘man’ part of the equation. The Bullet Man reduces the first film’s impact by moving away from WTF? zaniness to ‘Look at me’ drivel. We’ve seen Tokyo rendered as an oppressive urban jungle a million times. We’ve seen the Lone Warrior take on a bevy of baddies a billion times. We don’t need to see it again, particularly when bland heroes and their underwritten neurotic wives populate it.
This goes beyond detritus. It’s slag.