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Redline (2010)
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by Jay Seaver

"Fast, furious, funky, and far-out."
5 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2011 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: There have apparently been many movies named "Redline", most having auto racing as the subject, and many coming out within the past ten years. Most, apparently, are not very good. This one is, so here is a little help in picking it out should you see multiple Redlines lined up on the shelf - go for the animated Japanese sci-fi movie with the splashy artwork. It's frantically over-the top in every way possible, but isn't that what you want from a movie about incredibly high-speed racing in the future?

Of course, before we can get to the big race of the title, there's the qualifiers to get through, and the film opens with the Yellowline race. Sonoshee (voice of Yu Aoi) is in the lead with her crab-styled car, but fellow human "Sweet" JP (voice of Takuya Kimura) is making a late run with his tricked-out but old-school Trans Am. One advances to Redline by winning; the other is selected as a replacement when other racers drop out. Why would someone drop out of the biggest race in the galaxy, where the only rule is that your vehicle has to have wheels and anything else goes? Well, the planet selected is Roboworld, a militarized place that doesn't want it and has threatened to blow unwelcome guests away. That doesn't stop a number of competitors, including Machinehead Tetsuzin, who has fused his body with his car; Boiboi & Bosbos, magical girls from a planet of princesses; Lynchman & Johnny Boya, bounty hunters; Gori Rider, a corrupt cop; and Miki & Idoroki, small-time crooks. As the racers prepare on a nearby moon, JP's crustacean mechanic Shinkai (voice of Yoshiyuki Morishita) rebuilds his car while worrying that manager Frisbee (voice of Tadanobu Asano) will sabotage it as part of a deal with the mob.

That may sound like a lot of high-octane cazy, but there is much, much more. Main writer Katsuhito Ishii, co-writers Yoji Enokido & Yoshiki Sakurai, and director Takeshi Koike (making one heck of an ambitious debut here) stuff the movie with even more, like a Roboworld soldier who becomes stronger when he bawls. There's something called Funky Boy which is introduced to us with the phrase "Funky Boy must not be awoken", and by that point of the movie, the audience is either fried or thinking sure, I'll go with that. It's almost like Ishii, Koike, and company started out with a sci-fi racing movie and then asked themselves, with each pass at the design and script, how they could make the details just a little funkier and more science fictional.

Even with all the crazy stuff going on, the movie's not hard to grab onto. It does not exactly have a complicated script populated by groundbreaking character types; chances are good that the audience has seen all of these characters and the basic plot points in one form or another before. It's not a problem, though, because the dialogue is peppered with fun banter and the movie moves as quickly as its races; having a familiar structure helps the audience keep up, especially once the filmmakers start tossing even bigger things in toward the end. It's a fast-paced movie that's easy to follow, no matter how much Koike, Ishii, and company throw at the audience.

It's also gorgeous. The art style is neither the "big-eyes" style often associated with anime nor a realistic rotoscoped style; the first things that leaped to mind when I saw it were the comics of Paul Pope, with their elongated features and the sort of frantic attention to a busy sci-fi world that threatens to overwhelm the viewer but never quite does. The animation is handled by Madhouse, and it's flat-out amazing in its fluidity and how it sometimes seems so frantic that it seems like one can feel the animators having to rush to stay caught up. While there is certainly some digital work being done somewhere in the process, the imagery is almost entirely hand-drawn, allowing for the crazy distortions and broad expressions that give animation its special energy.

"Redline" starts and ends running at hundreds of miles per hour, and doesn't slow down that much in between. It is fortunately packed so full of entertaining, amusing bits - and the production is executed with such great skill, from concept drawing to soundtrack - that it's more exhilarating than exhausting. Most will probably discover it on DVD or Blu-ray, but any chance to see it on the big screen should be taken; it demands (and deserves) the chance to overwhelm an audience.

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originally posted: 08/16/11 23:38:29
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: Fantastic Fest 2010 For more in the Fantastic Fest 2010 series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2011 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the Fantasia International Film Festival 2011 series, click here.

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Directed by
  Takeshi Koike

Written by
  Katsuhito Ishii
  Yoji Enokido
  Yoshiki Sakurai

  Takuya Kimura
  Yű Aoi
  Tadanobu Asano

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