Robo Rock

Posted by DiGiKerot in Random Stuff at April 25, 2010 on 3:24 pm

One of the things I really want to do over the coming months is finally get on-top of all the unwatched media I have lying around. The problem here is the huge stack of movies I bought back when I figured that I really wasn’t watching enough in the watch of HK, Korean and Japanese live-action movies. With even legit HK releases being dirt cheap, I ended up picking up a few too many titles which were a little too random, all of which have since remained entirely unwatched. Until today, that is, when everything other than this peculiar little number which found it’s way into my DVD player remain sealed within their shrink-wrapped cells.

As for why this movie is of interest, well…

That “GDH” would stand for “Gonzo Digital Holdings” – yes, one of the many, many rungs of Gonzo’s rust-ridden, rapidly collapsing ladder was the production of live-action movies. Well, “live-action movie” would probably be more accurate, as I think this 2007 release was the only thing that ever came out of that initiative.

As I’ve already said, Robo Rock is a really peculiar movie. The movies lead is Masaru, a failed rock musician who, finding himself unable to hold down a steady job, works as a “Handyman”. By Handyman, I don’t mean that he goes around with a toolbox changing light bulbs, fixing door fittings or any of the other kind of things that would generally spring to mind when that word is used in English conversation. Most of his work is of the slightly shadier variety – the movie opens with him failing to get paid after stealing womans underwear, the client apparently insisting on pants rather than panties.

Masaru kind of sucks at his job, though. So, when a nerdy nutcase with a bunch of terrible photoshops approaches him, insisting that he needs to record Masarus voice in order to activate “Land Zeppelin”, and giant robot he’s adamant actually exists, Masaru’s girlfriend (a tattoo artist capable of only one design) figures it’d be a wonderful idea to take the poor guy for everything he owns in exchange. All of which, I’m sure, sounds absolutely hilarious even before I mention the two American mediators who speak in hilariously exaggerated English which, for extra comic value, is frequently subtitled completely differently to how it’s spoken. Things are, in fact, pretty amusing up until that point, but the movie then kind of forgets everything that made the first half hour of the movie fun – it loses the manic cutting and much of its humour in exchange for a rather less entertaining tale of a drugs deal gone awry. It just takes a turn for the awfully dry.

Up until just before the end, that is, when what was probably the real focus of the movie reveals itself.

Yes, Land Zeppelin exists (Whoops, Spoiler!), and is actually kind of neat. I rather suspect that this movie was only really intended as an exercise in Gonzo proving that they can do live-action visual effects as well as animated ones, though given that the movie’s entirely devoid of them right up until the last ten minutes makes this rather a spectacular failure in achieving that.

Really, though, Robo Rock is a pretty janky movie. Pretty much the whole movie looks to have been shot on location with hand-held cameras – there’s nothing particularly interesting (or, infact, good) about the way it’s shot or lit, and the camera shakes around an awful lot for a movie that isn’t going for that Blair Witch/Cloverfield documentary-vibe. Things like the costume design – which would work in anime, but smacks of trying too hard in live-action – and the frequently incredibly hammy acting does mean the movie exudes an awful lot of offbeat charm, but it doesn’t really spread far enough to cover its slow second act. The movies clearly just thirty minutes longer than it needed to be.

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