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  Tetsuo II: Body Hammer Oh The Iron
Year: 1992
Director: Shinya Tsukamoto
Stars: Tomorowo Taguchi, Shinya Tsukamoto, Nobu Kanaoka, Hideaki Tezuka, Tomoo Asada, Iwata, Keinosuke Tomioka, Torauemon Utazawa
Genre: Science Fiction, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: A businessman makes his way home but grows aware that he is being followed by two men, one of them pointing his finger at him and making shooting noises. He whirls round to confront them, only to be shot dead - but not by a gun, by the finger. Later, Taniguchi (Tomorowo Taniguchi) awakens in bed with his wife Kana (Nobu Kanaoka) and young son after a mysterious dream which took him back to a childhood he barely recalls. Other than that it seems to be just another day for his family until they go shopping and the boy is kidnapped; not only that but Taniguchi is shot with a strange gun. Things will never be the same...

Sort of a sequel to, sort of a remake of Tetsuo, here writer-director-star Shinya Tsukamoto really offered up more of the same with more money thrown at it, but to lesser effect. The same mixture of stop motion effects and outlandish, machine-based makeup was well to the fore and it even featured the same actors in similar roles as the original. The plotting this time around was marginally more coherent, that is, it was possible to follow precisely what was happening to the protagonist despite the bizarre nature of the ordeal he was suffering through.

After Taniguchi is shot, he is winded but doesn't appear to suffer any ill effects, at first anyway. He and Kana are able to catch up with the kidnappers and seize the boy back, but the bad guys are persistent and grab him again after luring him out of the family's apartment, leading the father to fly into a rage. Before he had been a mild-mannered chap, resembling a Japanese Clark Kent in his black-rimmed spectacles, but actually he's more like The Incredible Hulk when you make him angry and strange things start happening to his scrawny body.

Strange things like what? Like growing a cannon for an arm and blasting away at the villains, who are headed by a cult leader played by the writer and director, as it happens. It was he who singled Taniguchi out for transformation with a special injection devised by his chief scientist, but we don't find out the real reason until later on in the story. Before that, the cult, who resemble a collection of bodybuilding skinheads and are placed in sequences that look like a workout video for maniacs, are injected too, only to end up rusting when the metal enhancements don't take.

In amongst the homoerotic imagery (lots of sweaty men stripped to the waist) and bursts of metal cable snaking like frantic worms, there is a twisted tale of two families: the one Taniguchi belongs to and the one he has left behind, but still has its hooks in him. Not to give anything away, but the impetus for the cult leader to find what is essentially their reluctant messiah goes beyond merely picking some sap off the street. It all builds up to an apocalyptic climax that is nevertheless oddly anticlimactic, all right, there's a man-tank involved, but the delirium of the first film is rejected for something more reflective and slower paced. As a result, Body Hammer exists in the shadow of its more primitive, more powerful predecessor, with a few impressive sequences that never hang together satisfactorily. Even Chu Ishikawa's music isn't as good.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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Shinya Tsukamoto  (1960 - )

Japanese writer/director and actor whose controversial, stylised films have bought him considerable notoriety in the West. His 1988 sci-fi body-horror debut Tetsuo: The Iron Man was a hit at international film festivals, and he followed it with the colour sequel/remake, Tetsuo II: Body Hammer. Other films include the supernatural yarn Hiruko the Goblin, boxing fetish tale Tokyo Fist, the urban drama Bullet Ballet, erotic thriller A Snake of June and mental breakdown drama Kotoko.

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