Tetsuo: The Bullet Man
by Ruben R. Rosario
Now available on DVD from IFC Midnight and MPI Media Group.
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Shinya Tsukamoto’s Tetsuo: The Bullet Man is a fine return to the Tetsuo series and a testament to Tsukamoto’s career thus far. The film stars Eric Bossick as Anthony, a business man living in Tokyo, Japan with his wife and son. After the sudden tragedy in the family, caused by The Guy (Shinya Tsukamoto, who plays the antagonist in all three films), Anthony begins to transform into a mechanical monster. With his motives to destroy The Guy and get his revenge, Anthony finds himself learning about who he really is and what the Tetsuo project means for him and his family. Tsukamoto utilizes everything that he’s laid down with the previous Tetsuo films and compounds his new stylistic approaches that create a wonderful film that is in vein of the Tetsuo trilogy.
Tetsuo: The Bullet Man has been in the works for years in the mind of Tsukamoto. At a point, he was supposed to make the film in the U.S., with the backing of Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avary set as producers and star Tim Roth as the character of Anthony. Obviously, those plans didn’t pan out and yet what remained was keeping the film entirely in english. Many critics and fans have complained about the film having the awkward delivery of Japanese actors speaking in english dialog. While this point may be valid at moments of Tetsuo: The Bullet Man, the entire film is about a man turning into a giant machine, there’s nothing natural about the film or the entire Tetsuo series for that matter. Bossick and Tsukamoto do a fine job at being at opposite ends of the good and evil spectrum and present a new form of Tetsuo for a new generation.
Tetsuo: The Bullet Man’s plot is another remnant of the film being gestated in the United States. It’s much more linear and straightforward than the previous entries. While it is awkward to create a genuine story out the machine man that is Tetsuo, it gives the film’s characters much more weight and dimension than previous entries. Tsukamoto’s style from his recent films have now begin to change the way he approaches cinema than when he created Tetsuo: The Iron Man. From the cultish A Snake of June, to his much more commercial Nightmare Detective, all of his latest films have dealt with the protagonist dealing with a traumatic experience and deals with them trying to assert themselves back into the world that they inhabit. Tsukamoto does this as well as draw upon his previous efforts of the world of Tetsuo, through destruction, metamorphosis and violence in order to create something truly unique within his filmography.
Tsukamoto’s longtime collaborator, composer Chu Ishikawa and the sound effects team do a wonderful job in creating the sonic assault that is Tetsuo: The Bullet Man. The Tetsuo films have been known for Chu Ishikawa’s pulse pounding industrial scores. Ishikawa spares no decibel in creating a new haunting score for Tetsuo: The Bullet Man and does a wonderful job in creating a discordant mood and unease throughout the film. The sound effects and design do a wonderful job in creating a haunting atmosphere during action sequences and throughout the film. The overall soundtrack, the mix, sound effects and score help supply the intense imagery and cinematography that is Tetsuo: The Bullet Man.
This film is the most straightforward of the Tetsuo trilogy and the most accessible, due to it’s plot and structure. Old fans of the original might look down and frown upon this. These few discrepancies shouldn’t fool them though. If one looks close enough, one can see the logical progression of Shinya Tsukamoto’s work and come to realize that this is the version that the man is capable of now. If one is willing to welcome metamorphosis, bullets and mayhem, look no further than Tetsuo: The Bullet Man.
Ruben R. Rosario is a graduate from Columbia College Chicago with a degree in Audio for Visual Media. He works as a freelance location sound mixer, boom operator, sound designer, and writer in his native Chicago. He’s an avid collector of films, comics, and anime.
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