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(English soundtrack)

Brooklyn ... Masahiro Takashima Sgt. Nim ... Brenda Bakke Seven ... Yujin Harada Eleven ... Kaori Mizushima Bebe ... Aya Enyoji Bancho ... Mickey Curtis Balba ... James B. Thompson Boomerang ... Doll Nguyen

(English soundtrack)

“Gunhed” is a hokey slab of Nipponese sci-fi that’s OK for buffs but not high-key enough to break into wider markets. Five-year-old production, pairing Brenda Bakke alongside local name Masahiro Takashima, looks like a Ridley Scott/James Cameron knockoff and plays like a Japanese comic strip with live actors.

Setting is the Pacific island 8JO in the year 2039, 13 years after a megabattle in which the island’s super computer, Chiron 5, successfully defended itself against a battalion of Gunheds (unmanned robots) sent by the World Union Government to curb its global ambitions.

A group of “treasure hunters,” led by Japanese mechanic Brooklyn (Takashima), land on 8JO to salvage Chiron 5’s computer chips. After bumping into a Texas Air Ranger (Bakke) on a mission of her own, plus two young kids — Seven and Eleven (get it?) — who survived the war there, everyone suddenly discovers Chiron 5 is warming up for another attempt at world domination. Brooklyn manages to repair a damaged Gunhed for a final showdown with the billion-dollar brain.

Pic cruises along in second gear most of the time, with authentically cheesy dialogue, unflashy f/x, good model work, a bland pop-synth soundtrack and light, jokey tone. Hardware-heavy visuals and gray-brown color scheme ape any number of futuristic flicks. Compositions mirror comic-strip art rather than being cinematic in their own right.

Things pick up in the final half-hour, which eventually delivers the action goods without springing any major surprises. Lack of widescreen and Dolby sound is a handicap, however, and a couple of gaping plot holes look like the result of trimming.

As the carrot-chewing mechanic who starts a wimp and ends up a hero, Takashima takes his time but develops an easygoing charm. Bakke, clad in a figure-hugging rubber suit, makes a tough and sexy Texas Ranger but voices her lines as if she can’t wait to get home. Pic was reportedly a B.O. hit for Toho on local release in 1989.


Production: A Manga Entertainment release (U.K.) of a Toho Co., Sunrise production. Produced by Gunhed Production Committee. Executive producers, Tomoyuki Tanaka, Eiji Yamamura. Directed by Masato Harada. Screenplay, Harada, James Bannon.

Crew: Camera (color), Junichi Fujisawa; editor, Fumio Ogawa; music, Toshiyuki Honda; special visual effects, Koichi Kawakita; mechanical designs, Masaharu Kamahari. Reviewed at De Lane Lea Preview Theater, London, Feb. 4, 1994. Running time: 99 MIN.

With: Brooklyn ... Masahiro Takashima Sgt. Nim ... Brenda Bakke Seven ... Yujin Harada Eleven ... Kaori Mizushima Bebe ... Aya Enyoji Bancho ... Mickey Curtis Balba ... James B. Thompson Boomerang ... Doll Nguyen

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