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Tetsuo II: Body Hammer
cast: Tomoroh Taguchi, Kei Fujiwara, Shinya Tsukamoto, Sujin Kim

writer and director: Shinya Tsukamoto

81 minutes (18) 1992
Tartan Asia Extreme DVD Region '0' retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Porl Broome
Not really a sequel, per se, more a bigger budget colour remake and rethink of the original, with Taguchi and director Tsukamoto reprising their roles as man-machine meta-morphs. This time Tsukamoto is the sinister leader of an underground group of musclemen, hell-bent on recreating the experiment which led to his murderous transforming abilities as a child, in order that he can create a superhuman 'iron-man' army with which to wreak destruction on society. He selects a random victim on whom to test his serum, unfortunately his cohorts happen to select the only person with a power greater than his own (Taguchi). Whereas Tsukamoto chooses to revel in his ability, and is regarded as a god by his followers, Taguchi has buried his past so deeply in his mind that his powers are completely unknown to him - indeed it takes the kidnapping of his son, and his resulting anger, to bring out the machine in the man.
   Tetsuo II: Body Hammer is another visual tour de force from Tsukamoto, generally refining the concepts of Tetsuo: The Iron Man, and offering a more linear (and far easier to follow) storyline. Whereas the first outing was more a constant stream of images, camera effects and pummelling industrial soundtrack - not recommended for mainstream viewing - the sequel is a much more conventional beast. As such, it doesn't quite possess the raw energy that made The Iron Man so compelling. Even the music (from returning composer Chu Ishikawa) is much lighter (it's still urgent and full of beats, but is more rock than industrial). The performances, however, are once again full of passion, and completely free from pretence - especially from the first film's returning main trio: Taguchi (who once again has to go from nervous panic, to maniacal), Kei Fujiwara as Taguchi's wife, and the incredibly creepy Tsukamoto (who presents us with one of the most insidious, unstable, and sensuous bad guys the cinema has seen).
   Really, comparisons between the two films are inconsequential - as (despite the title) the two exist in their own dimensions, and should be regarded as separate efforts. The Iron Man requires a certain amount of fascination with the 'art' of experimental cinema, whereas Body Hammer is the one I would recommend to fans of Japanese action and science fiction. The anime influence is obvious in a lot of the fight scenes, leaving one to believe that if the much-touted live-action version of Akira were ever realised, Tsukamoto would be the perfect helmsmen. The effects are great, the camerawork frenetic, and the ending´┐Ż well, let's just say that it pushes the ending of the first film on that little bit further. There are one or two imperfect facets to the piece, mostly the Incredible Hulk aspect that Taguchi only transforms when he gets really angry (and you wouldn't like him when he's angry), some of 'musclemen workout' scenes push the homoerotic envelope a bit too much, and a couple of action moments toward the end (during the big head-to-head) are so like The Terminator you almost forget which film you're watching.
   This aside, Tetsuo II: Body Hammer is a classic piece of sci-fi cinema, and should be a part of any genre enthusiasts' collection. Just don't get too fond of the cute little kid...
   DVD extras include filmographies of the director and cast, a promotional stills gallery, film notes, and the original trailers for both Tetsuo films.
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