Monday, September 12, 2011

Late 80's Asian Cinema Double Feature: Ging chaat goo si juk jaap (Police Story 2) (1988) and Tetsuo (The Iron Man) (1989)

Seen: On dvd rented from Hollywood Express in Cambridge (Police Story 2) and on Netflix instant (Tetsuo), both on our big screen/projector set-up.
82/100 on the Sci-Fi List.

Though I watched these films back-to-back I wasn't going to make them a double feature post since there's really very little to connect them except their East Asian origins and late-80's timestamp, but then I realized they would be a perfect entry to Pussy Goes Grrr's Juxtaposition Blogathon! Yay! With its intensely-choreographed fight scenes and mediocre storyline, Jackie Chan's Police Story 2 is a passable action flick. JUXTAPOSED (see what I did there?) against it is Tetsuo, The Iron Man, a goddamn crazy CRAZY movie by noted weird auteur Shin'ya Tsukamoto.

Following his successful first Police Story with more of the same, Jackie Chan once again stars as Ka Kui, a goofy but highly dedicated cop who gets caught up in another major criminal case even after being demoted to traffic cop and subsequently quitting the force. The dudes he had arrested in the last movie are out and have revenge in mind, with Ka Kui's girlfriend May (Maggie Cheung) as their target. But also oh no there's a big terrorist bomb threat hanging over a major corporation in the city and it seems Ka Kui is the only competent person on the police force who can stop it?!

This sequel has many of the same problems the first one did, but also most of its strengths. The script is all over the place and the characterization is weak (especially May), but the action sequences are exceptional. It's not as funny as its predecessor and the story is weaker so as a whole I didn't enjoy it as much, but I always appreciate Chan's impressive fight choreography and high-concept action set pieces. The finale takes place in a fireworks factory, and yes that is as awesome as it sounds. Also there are these three totally badass cop ladies who get like one scene. So... that was nice.


Loosely plotted around a Man (Tomorowo Taguchi) who finds himself gradually turning into metal throughout the day, Tetsuo, The Iron Man is an almost belligerently inaccessible piece of filmmaking, and a week later I still have no idea what I actually watched. It is certainly one of the strangest films I've ever seen, making its way through murky explorations of sex, transformation, revenge, and urban existence with little explanation or exposition. Writer/director Tsukamoto (who also appears as the Man's antagonist, the Metal Fetishist) literally assaults his audience with imperceptible flashes of black and white imagery and a pulsing industrial soundtrack. With its gritty quality and surreal visuals I frequently had no idea just what I was looking at.

And yet, Tetsuo is so wholly singular I actually found myself really appreciating it by the end. It's hard to get into, certainly, but even just the ingenuity and obvious devotion on display make it worth a look. At first seemingly a barrage of disconnected scenes, the story does come together by the end for an interesting sci-fi revenge tale that completely mutates its central character- both physically and mentally. It features a range of awesome techniques, from stop-motion animation to quick-change montage. It also features one of the most memorable sex scenes I have ever beheld. It's weird, weird, weird, but you guys probably know by now that I like that sort of thing!