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Hammer Head

Tetsuo II: Body Hammer
Chain Reaction: One moment--among many--of mayhem in 'Tetsuo II.'

Tetsuo returns--longer, louder and more expensive than ever

By Richard von Busack

SHINYA TSUKAMOTO'S follow-up to his unique half-animated midnight movie Tetsuo: Iron Man is--like The Evil Dead before it--not a sequel but a higher-budget remake. In Tetsuo II: Body Hammer, the bespectacled, cypherlike businessman Tomoo (Tomoroh Taguchi) is senselessly assaulted by thugs who goad him into killing his son. The death is linked to Tomoo's amnesia about his early life, and the trauma of this killing starts Tomoo into metamorphosing, as if he were a human transformer robot.

Tomoo is captured by the dangerous Guy (director Tsukamoto, as handsome and sinister as Frank Langella in his youth and made up with a convincing-looking cleft palate). Imprisoned, Tomoo is goaded into even more horrible transformations. Grisly howitzer-sized guns extrude from his chest and his back whenever he's in a state of rage.

Like Eraserhead, the movie moves along swiftly with barely any dialogue or exposition. When Tetsuo II: Body Hammer finally gives us a back story (it has to do with Tomoo witnessing a primal scene), it's something of a disappointment; we'd have been better off with the mystery. Like its predecessor, Tetsuo II: Body Hammer is a great yelp of horror about what an inhuman landscape urban Japan is becoming. Some of the most fascinating scenes aren't the animated coils of pipes leaping out of Tomo like mechanical intestines but just the cold, blue-filtered footage of seeming miles of anonymous skyscrapers. While the film is free of sentiment and compromise, expanding what should have been a short film to an hour and a half makes Tetsuo II: Body Hammer as oppressive as it is impressive.

Tetsuo II: Body Hammer (Unrated; 83 min.), directed, written and photographed by Shinya Tsukamoto and starring Tomoroh Taguchi.

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From the August 7-13, 1997 issue of Metro.

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