Though many Japanese filmmakers are inspired by Hollywood cinema, the background of Masato Harada no doubt played a major part in the direction he chose for this film. For many years, the director worked as a film critic and member of the foreign press in Los Angeles.
Led by a Japanese/American cast, Gunhed pays homage to American cyberpunk classics like The Terminator and Aliens, but does so in a very Japanese way. It doesn't so much tell a story as use elements from the above films as a framework on which to hang a great number of manic action sequences, most of them featuring slightly too obvious model fx work of transforming and talking (perhaps inspired by that other cyberpunk classic, Knight Rider) robots.
The film bears many scars of the tampering by its Western distributor. The English dubbing, voice overs and the extensive use of jarring, cheap-looking video wipe effects in particular. No doubt these were attempts to make the film more accessible to gaijin eyes, but they only serve to make film more confusing, and due to drastic loopholes in the story, uninteresting to the point of boredom.
Having never seen the Japanese version, it's hard to tell how many of these faults were originally part of the film. Judging from the slight plot however, it seems safe to assume that that particular version doesn't fare much better.