Screened as part of NZIFF 2001
A return from his more structured thrillers like Angel Dust and Labyrinth of Dreams to the punky kinetic anarchy of his early work, Japanese maverick Sogo Ishii delivers a wild ride with the hour-long B&W feature Electric Dragon 80,000 V. Stronger on frenetic energy than narrative coherence, this mind-bending jolt centering on the rivalry between two urban warriors, both electrocuted as children, combines high-octane comicstrip action with an acid-trip, metallic aesthetic.
Punctuated by elementary inter-titles and propelled by urgent drum beats and wailing electro-rock, the story doesn’t bear close examination. The shock he received to the reptilian part of his brain that controls emotion and desire enables rage-prone guitar freak Dragon Eye Morrison to communicate with lizards. But his electromagnetic power represents a threat to similarly wired Thunderbolt Buddha, leading to a violent clash on the Tokyo rooftops. Cut at breakneck speed and shot with convulsive, multi-angle dexterity, the film is light on dialogue, driven mainly by its thrashing imagery and intricate soundtrack of layered noise and music. — David Rooney, Variety, 3/5/01
Electric Dragon 80,000 V attains hyperdrive by hotwiring one of the director’s earliest punk-primordial strategies: it suggests that sticking your head inside an overdriven guitar is as good a way as any to glimpse the face of God. Ex-teen idols Masatoshi Nagase and Takenori Asano – both of whom happen to be members of Ishii’s mutant musical ensemble Mach 1.67 – turn in Kabuki-fried performances as a pair of rival noise-warriors bent on the audio-visual domination of neo-Tokyo.
Asano went so far as to torture his own electric guitar into skronking submission for the film’s soundtrack, but it’s Nagase’s stoic incarnation of Thunderbolt Buddha – half automaton, half hood ornament – that spotwelds this sparky spurt of new-century delirium to Buster Keaton’s eternal star. — Chuck Stephens, Film Comment, 3/4/01
Not since Shinya Tsukamoto’s Tetsuo (1991) have I met such a frenetic assault of rock’n’roll overdose – the black and white looks definitely as retro-futuristic and the editing is like hyperventilation; almost as if the movie is over before it started. — Christoph Huber, Senses of Cinema, 2-3/01