ADV Films // 1989 // 98 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Joel Pearce (Retired) // January 15th, 2005
Get ready for the ultimate cyber-rumble.
I don't know why I volunteer to review crap like this. I mean, someone has to cover it eventually, but I actually offered to watch Gunhed.
An evil robot called Khyron gains sentience and threatens to destroy the world when it develops a radioactive isotope called -- I'm not joking -- texmexium (seriously). The humans try to fight Khyron on its island, but are all destroyed. For reasons that are not even slightly explained, the humans then forget all about this evil robotic empire, until a group of cyber-bandits and a lone Texas Air Force Ranger show up and destroy the robot once and for all. Now it's up to Brooklyn (Masahiro Takashima, Godzilla vs. Destroyer) and Nim (Brenda Bakker, Nowhere to Run) to activate the last Gunhed robot and reclaim the texmexium shard.
This, of course, prompts some puzzling questions. Why did Khyron wait until a threat showed up on the island to begin the countdown to destruction? If half of the characters speak Japanese and half speak English, how are they able to communicate with each other? How can the countdown timer show three minutes, then show three minutes again after 15 minutes of action? When did the cuisine of the Southwest become so deadly? Why would anyone watch this film in the first place?
I don't even know where to begin. Everything about this film is a dismal failure. The dialogue is dreadful, made worse by the constant switching back and forth between English and Japanese. I understand that it's an international production, but it doesn't make sense for each of the characters to speak their own language in response to other characters speaking other languages. If they can all understand both languages, wouldn't they pick one or the other to converse in? The cast demonstrates virtually no talent, but even the best actors in the world couldn't deliver these lines convincingly.
The other major failure of Gunhed is in the filming. As if the script weren't confusing enough, there isn't any sense of continuity in the editing. Characters disappear for half of the film only to show up again when they are needed. Other characters disappear, never to be heard from again. The action scenes are cut using close-ups of explosions and shooting. Since there are few establishing shots, it's almost never clear what's going on. Some major plot points are just glossed over with tacky narration, making the larger plot almost impossible to follow as well. I realize this was shot on a very small budget, but that's no excuse for bad storytelling.
ADV must realize how important Gunhed is in the grand scheme of things. Contrary to the information on the back, the video transfer is a murky letterboxed version that demonstrates every type of flaw imaginable on a DVD transfer. Print damage, a severe lack of detail, color errors, desaturation, compression problems, and a black level that could blind you on a sunny day. The lackluster stereo track was somewhat better, accurately capturing the obnoxious computerized score. Sometimes the sound effects were too loud and mercifully drowned out the wretched dialogue. The only extra is the original Japanese trailer. Thankfully, I didn't have to sit through commentary tracks or a production featurette.
Some of the set design is mildly cool, but its impact was totally lost thanks to the horrid transfer.
Live action anime is generally a bad idea unless you have a production designer with a keen eye, a visionary director, and a huge budget. Gunhed has none of these things, and fails completely on every level. Hell, they couldn't even spell Gunhed right. Even as an acronym for "gun unit/heavy elimination device" they screwed up. I would, however, suggest that Guhed would have been a better title for this disastrous mess.
If you see this title at your local DVD retailer, do everyone else a favor and hide it behind something better. Nearly anything will do.
Review content copyright © 2005 Joel Pearce; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Bottom 100 Discs: #54
Studio: ADV Films
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 1989
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Original Japanese Trailer