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Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Gunhed (1989)

Cyberpunk! Industrial wastelands! Robots kicking the crap out of each other! Gunhed has all the ingredients of a genuine cult classic, and while it is incredibly impressive to look at, as a film it is as cold as the robots that it features. The visual aesthetic is brilliant, full on apocalyptic cyberpunk from an era when cyberpunk was the cutting edge of cool when it came to sci-fi. The look of the film feels very much like the glimpses of the future war you get during the first Terminator movie, and on a purely visual level the film is superb.

Okay. First thing first. The Dub on this half Japanese language, half English flick is atrocious. I'm viewing the UK VHS release that was put out by Manga Live and the voice acting is about as natural as neon yellow eyes. I must track down the original language version at some point, but for this review I'm stuck with the VHS I found second hand a while back.

If you like mecha, cyberpunk and post apocalyptic shenanigans, along with characters in goggles and combat gear, oneliners and lots of explosions, then you'll enjoy this. However, if you like a plot, a proper script and some decent acting, look elsewhere. GunHed certainly has the right look, but it is in the storytelling that it falls flat on its big metal face. This may well be down to the film's woefully incoherent edit. Scenes have been spliced together seemingly at random for some of the running time, which is a pain.

The plot? Basically, after the Big Apocalyptic War that happens conveniently off-screen in so many films like this, a bunch of scavengers go to the stronghold of the enemy computer's mainframe. The evil machine reawakens, and in order to get out of there alive they must resurrect the GunHed, a famous military fighting machine (basically a massive robotic tank). Thing probably go much smoother with the original dialogue track, but I scan;t see it being all that much more impressive.

So, with the standard storyline in place and all manner of BIG GUNS bolted onto things, the viewer is treated to some spectacular visuals. The low budget of this film has been used to great effect, and the model work and miniature work that is on show was realized very well indeed. It's almost seamlessly cut into the regular live action, and even the video effects, dated as they may be, are impressively integrated into the live action footage.

GunHed is a mess in terms of plot, editing and dialogue, but as a series of action set pieces involving cyberpunk style characters and big, greasy robots, it's a fun watch. There is a very cartoonish feel to a lot of the film, and this kind of works in the flick's favour as it stops you having to think too much about what is actually going on. Boom! Stuff exploding! You get the idea. Aside from one woeful creature makeup, it's a bit of a visual treat. Disengage your brain, strap on some combats and a long coat, and get some 'Hed.

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