Netflix UK film review: 009 Re: Cyborg
James R | On 04, Jun 2013
Director: Kenji Kamiyama
Cast: Mamoru Miyano, Hisao Egawa, Toshiko Fujita, Hiroshi Kamiya
Watch 009 Re: Cyborg online in the UK: Netflix UK / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
As the old saying goes, if you’re going to make a film, at least make one that involves a telepathic baby with green hair called Ivan.
If that saying doesn’t exist, then 009 Re: Cyborg certainly invents it. And how. A big screen update of a 1960s manga, it’s the story of a team of cyborg soldiers who protect the world from Bad Things. Now scattered across the globe, their mentor gets the mechanical gang back together when suicide bombers destroy a string of major global landmarks. The only thing these terrorist attacks have in common? They all heard “His Voice” before detonating.
And so 009 (Miyano) is summoned from his lonely life pretending to be a teen to join forces with a superhuman wrestler, a girl with X-ray vision and a machine gun-fingered albino German. Meanwhile, USA-based Joe (Kamiya), whose back opens up like a venetian blind made of jets, tries to work out what the government knows. Is it one giant CIA conspiracy? What is “His Voice”? Why has 009 started to hear it too? And what is up with that telepathic baby?
Writer-director Kenji Kamiyama, who gave us Eden of the East and Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, builds up the mystery with an enjoyably zippy first half – then knocks it down with the agility and grace of a rhinoceros trying to play Jenga.
Slick cityscapes, stunning explosions and excellent character design give way to a dreadful chunk of exposition in a church, which namedrops Freud, Buddha and countless others in an attempt to answer who “His” is. No one seems to come up with an answer, although it apparently has something to do with angels. Or fossils. Or brains. Or a combination of the three. It’s hilariously awkward to watch.
The rest is, at least, a treat for the eyeballs; Kamiyama blends 2D backdrops and 3D people with the style you’d expect from an anime veteran. But you can’t ignore the telepathic baby in the room: this barmy theological essay simply makes no sense. Even worse, it thinks it does. A muddled love story at the heart of it only increases the film’s unsatisfying air. Still, at only 100 minutes, at least the insane theological mumblings move along quickly.
If you can swallow the ridiculous finale, which scales Moonraker heights of silliness with a straight face, then there’s a lot of fun to be had from 009 Re: Cyborg. It’s mostly unintentional fun, but the film deserves credit for having the courage of its convictions – even if those convictions are completely bonkers. Nic Cage starring in a biopic of Tom Cruise levels of bonkers. But when you’re surrounded by giant-haired robots, messengers from God and strange voices in people’s heads, sometimes it’s best just to go along with it. Of course, that may just be the telepathic baby talking.
009 RE: Cyborg is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.