Keita Amemiya returns to robot territory with “Mechanical Violator Hakaider”, and seems to have learned his lessons well from his previous efforts. The result is a visually impressive and entertaining film that will satisfy fans of science fiction and Japanese cinema. If only the script relied more on its own ideas instead of others, this could have been a masterpiece.
The film opens with a gang of treasure hunters getting more than they bargain for when they uncover a warrior android with a nasty case of amnesia. Unfortunately for our treasure hunters, finding the android proves to be a huge mistake, as the cybernetic amnesiac graphically slaughters them before setting off to learn his identity. His quest takes him to Jesus Town, formerly Jerusalem, now under the oppressive rule of Girjev and his robotic servant Mikail. After learning his true purpose, the android fights to free the people of Jesus Town from their evil ruler.
Keita Amemiya gives us a visually gorgeous film, a veritable feast for the eyes and a treat for the senses. The film clips by at a rapid rate and never gives the audience the chance to catch its breath. Amemiya also gives us unique costuming, with the good characters garbed in black and the evil ones wearing white. There’s also plenty of religious imagery to be found, and characters sport angel-like wings and statues of Christ and the Virgin Mary are desecrated. Despite Amemiya’s dark vision of Christianity, he never strays into the realm of the blasphemous, and seems to be instead holding organized religion accountable for its shortcomings.
The script by Yoshinori Kitase, from an original story by Shotaro Ishinomori, is fairly good, if a bit unoriginal. We’ve seen all this post-apocalyptic shenanigans before, making it seem as if the writers took the script for “Terminator”, “Mad Max”, and “Guyver” and pureed them in a blender, submitting the results to be filmed. Thankfully the script has some saving graces, offering up decent dialogue and well-developed characters. Even better are the action sequences, scripted with enough adrenaline to keep viewers glued to the screen.
As far as the acting is concern, the performances range from excellent to nondescript. Yasuaki Honda gives a spectacular and weird performance as the despotic Girjev, and at times seems to be channeling Michael Jackson on his stranger days. Toshiyuki Kikuchi gives an equally good performance as Mikail. The character displays great compassion and sadness, yet is capable of merciless murder. As a result, Mikail becomes one of the most memorable and conflicted characters in “Hakaider”.
Unfortunately the rest of the cast aren’t quite as successful in their portrayals. As the title character, Yuji Kishimoto delivers a one-note performance. The actor is without a doubt very good-looking, but he never manages to become more than a pretty face, an object of obsession for the females in the audience to drool over. The rest of the cast is serviceable, but never manages to transcend the material.
Another major plus are the robotic suits, which are very realistic and appear quite formidable onscreen. This is especially true of Mikail’s suit — a beautifully rendered and whitish armor. It’s the perfect contrast to Hakaider’s battered black suit, and gives a nice visual contrast between the two characters. Girjev’s soldiers are equally well realized, with white uniforms covering them from head to toe. They have a menacing and sterile air about them, even if they do resemble the snow troopers from “The Empire Strikes Back”.
“Mechanical Violator Hakaider” is a movie that, although imperfect, is still very well done. An amazingly visual and exciting piece of work, it’s a satisfying way to pass an afternoon, even if you can’t help but wish it was more imaginative and had better performances.
Keita Amamiya (director) / Shotaro Ishinomori (story), Yoshinori Kitase (screenplay)
CAST: Mai Hosho …. Kaoru
Yasuaki Honda …. King Girjev
Toshiyuki Kikuchi …. Mikhail
Yuji Kishimoto …. Hakaider