Third Window Films: Electric Dragon 80000V (2001) - Reviewed


Photo courtesy of Third Window Films

How do we repress the animal instinct to explode? 

The air is charged with energy, making one's hair stand on end. The air has a metallic taste, and the smell of burning wires wafts into the nostrils. A deep guttural guitar riff rips through the silence. That's electricity, baby! Sogo Ishii's Electric Dragon 80000 V (2001) is as close as one can get to a bolt of lightning without getting burned to a crisp. It's lean and mean, clocking in at just under an hour, but it's packed to the gills with energy and intensity.

Dragon Eye Morrison (Tadanobu Asano) was a problem child, prone to violent outbursts. As he grew up, he was subjected to electric shock treatments, which damaged the part of his brain responsible for self-control and supercharged him with electricity. As an adult, he still has trouble controlling his rage, but luckily he has found an outlet: shredding sick riffs on his electric guitar. Dragon Eye is so unstable that he bolts himself into bed every night to keep his body under control lest he go out on a rampage.

Dragon Eye isn't alone; there is another man on the streets of Tokyo with similar powers, Thunderbolt Buddha (Masatoshi Nagase), a TV repairman who moonlights as masked vigilante. He wears a shiny chrome Buddha mask on half of his face and is dressed in all leather, with giant rubber boots that presumably keep him grounded. He received his powers from a childhood accident and, like Dragon Eye, has issues with controlling it fully. He prowls the streets using his electro-fighting sticks to apprehend criminals.

Electric Dragon 80000 V isn't concerned with mundane things like plot or motivations; it's all vibe. The vast majority of the film is shot like a music video, with hyperkinetic editing and stark black-and-white photography. Dragon Eye and Thunderbolt don't have a discernible reason to want to fight each other; they do so because it would be rad if they did, and Ishii wants to show the audience cool shit. When these electrical titans clash with each other, superhero style, sparks fly, and it's a sight to behold. Two men who cannot integrate fully with society go full out on each other with their forbidden powers, finally truly living only when they are trying to murder each other.

Besides the visuals, the standout aspect of this flick is the incredible sound design. Electricity crackles in the air as they use it, the metallic zings whipping around them constantly. Dragon Eye's guitar work borders on industrial noise band sounds, and the music was provided by Ishii's real-life band MACH-1.67. The camera work is shaky and frenetic, whipping around corners and following Dragon Eye as he saunters through the alleyways trying to burn off his endless energy. Ishii wisely keeps the movie short to not overwhelm the senses.

Electric Dragon 80000 V is a punk rock shock to the brain, a visceral and hyper work that should be experienced by anyone looking for something to blow their mind.

--Michelle Kisner

Photo courtesy of Third Window Films

Blu-ray Special Features:

• New HD master from the original negatives

• Director Sogo Ishii, musician Hiroyuki Onogawa and producer Takenori Sento Stage Greeting

• Tadanobu Asano Stage Greeting

• Masatoshi Nagase Stage Greeting

• Premiere Stage Greetings

• Producer Takenori Sento Interview

• Music Creator Hiroyuki Onogawa interview

• Synthesized Images with Commentary

• Storyboards

• Trailer

• Slipcase with illustrated artwork by Ian MacEwan

• Reversible Sleeve with original Japanese artwork

• Slipcase edition limited to 1500 copies