Tetsuo: The Bullet Man is a work of twisted genius by a master at the top of his game, Shinya Tsukamoto. It’s pure cyber cinema at its best and delivers a jolt of terrifying techno savagery that will leave your eyelids and eardrums shaken after the end credits roll. It’s about a man who transforms into a mechanical-human hybrid, a living robot weapon. It’s violent, energetic and surreal, with twists and turns that you could only expect from the devilish mind of Tsukamoto. That being said, it might be considered a difficult film for mainstream audiences to easily accept, unless you are an ardent fan of both sci-fi and horror films. But if you are in the mood for something truly different, Tetsuo: The Bullet Man delivers a unique spectacle of cybernetic mayhem.

This is the third incarnation of the Tetsuo franchise and the first one aimed at American audiences; containing mostly English dialogue and produced by an American company. The first Tetsuo film, Tetsuo: The Iron Man, launched the career of a then unknown film student into the limelight of Japanese cinema. The film has rightfully been compared to David Lynch’s Eraserhead in terms of its bravado and its influence extends into many facets of sci-fi films, including The Matrix. Tsukamoto followed it shortly thereafter with Tetsuo II: Body Hammer, a studio financed re-working of the original that attempted to add additional layers of drama and suspense but was not as critically acclaimed. Tetsuo: The Bullet Man brings us full circle as the concept of Tetsuo is once again re-imagined, this time retaining minor elements from Tetsuo II, but primarily a return to the roots of the first.

The story is simple enough, Anthony (Eric Bossick), a young man living in Tokyo with his wife (Akiko Monou), is plagued by nightmares that something horrific might befall his young son. He works as a researcher for his father’s lab, masked with ambiguity to serve the later emotional and physical transformation of the protagonist. When nightmare becomes reality, Anthony is filled with an uncontrollable rage that unleashes a robotic demon buried deep within his blood. What follows, is the traditional Tetsuo transformation while being antagonized by the evil Guy (Shinya Tsukamoto) who yearns himself to become like Tetsuo. After a violent turn for the worst, the film boils down to a single climatic confrontation that is so bizarre, beautiful and frightening that it will undoubtedly leave you unnerved.

There are a few minor problems with Tetsuo: The Bullet Man that cannot go unmentioned. The English dialogue definitely feels out of place, often feeling like a dubbed film rather than the authentic language the characters would be speaking. This was most likely an attempt by producers to breach a broader international market, but it definitely becomes an annoyance that sometimes takes you out of the intense dramatic moments. In addition, the shift to high definition gives the film a more crisp and clean look which doesn’t really suit the grainy distorted world of Tetsuo but it’s not a deal-breaker by any means. The bottom line is that Tsukamoto is still able to capture that raw feeling of tension and amazement captured in the original, while still demolishing your senses with new intense visuals and audio. The filmmaker turns out powerful imagery of technology transforming flesh into something to be pondered. Tetsuo: The Bullet Man brings the style and imagination of Tsukamoto to a new audience while delivering a satisfying sequel to fans familiar with the canon.

8 out of 10

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