Director: Takeshi Koike
One of the short films that impressed me the most from the anime anthology Neo Tokyo (1987) was the one called ‘The Running Man’, a segment about a race featuring a bunch of cool looking futuristic racing cars; it had a feeling of speed, a style and kinetic energy about it that I loved. It was also dark and gritty, sort of like Blade Runner (1982), but within a race track? It was an awesome short, highly recommend checking it out. Redline (2009), the film I’ll be talking about today takes a similar premise (that of the futuristic racing circuit) and stretches it into a full length film. But instead of dark and gritty, Redline is ultra colorful and bright! This abundance of shinny, bright colors brought to mind the Wachowski’s Speed Racer (2008). Redline also features outlandish and crazy cool racing cars that defy logic, gravity and realism. In this way, Redline functions as pure escapism, so outlandish, that it will transport you to a whole other world. Don’t look for logic here; just look for the cool and the stylish! Welcome to the world of Redline.
Redline immediately throws us into the racing world by starting the movie off right smack in the middle of a race called ‘Yellow Line’. This race takes place in a planet called ‘Dorothy’, which by the way is a planet inhabited by humanoid dogs that also race cars! So anyhow, through this blazing, speedy introduction we first meet the characters we’ll be seeing throughout the rest of the film, the racers. The principal characters are a racer called JP; a guy who lives and breathes racing and loves to look cool. He’s all about the leather jacket, the cigs, the hair and the switchblade knife that doubles as a hair comb. Then we have Sonoshee, a girl who is equally passionate about racing, in fact, so much so she has no place left for love in her life. Or does she? So anyhow, both JP and Sonoshee grew up together and have a crush on each other, yet they end up being enemies on this huge race called ‘The Red Line’, which will be taking place in Roboworld, a planet ruled by a Nazi like race of androids. I know that all sounds totally bonkers, but such is the nature of this film and this is what makes it such an interesting watch.
This is an extremely stylish film; it places its emphasis on cool. The main character, JP, dresses like a rocker from the 50’s, with his leather jacket and greasy hair. JP doesn’t just drive a motorcycle; he drives this awesome looking hover bike, which looks like a futuristic Harley. Some of the racing cars look like spaceships; their designs are very diverse. Point is this is more of a visual trip than anything else. Redline is not a deep or profound film, but boy is it a fun movie to watch. Part of the fun comes from the animation, which utilizes these odd angles and exaggerated designs. I loved how they placed the camera in the strangest of places, it made things more interesting. In fact, this movie is so interesting visually that you’ll probably want to watch it a couple of times over. If you’re an anime fan, you’ll immediately want to own it and place right next to your copy of Ninja Scroll (1993). Speaking of Ninja Scroll (1993), this movie was produced by Mad House Studios, the same guys who brought us that very same Ninja classic. So you can expect the same level of excellence in the animation.
The crazy angles in Redline reminded me of Afro Samurai (2007), an anime film which featured that same style, which places the camera in odd spaces and stretches images out, it’s very unique. While doing research for this review I discovered that my comparisons were right on the dot becauseTakeshi Koike, the director for Redline, served as a key animator for Afro Samurai, so that explains the similarities in style. The stretched out angles are obviously part of Koike’s style. By the way, this was Takeshi Koike first full length anime film and it’s an impressive debut. Obviously, he put to good use all that experience as key animator in films like Ninja Scroll (1993), Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust (2000) and Memories (1995), not to mention his work in series like Samurai Champloo. The result was this impressive break out film for Takeshi Koike.
Redline reminded me of various films, but ultimately, what it felt like was a mash up between the pod racing scenes in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999), the premise for Death Race 2000 (1975) and finally, the crazy kinetic nonstop chase sequences you’d find in a Mad Max film. Redline feels like you took all the crazy racers from the pod race in Episode I and expanded on them, gave them background stories and made a whole film around that world. There’s an awesome race in the beginning of the film, a couple of races in the middle and the grand finale, The Red Line race. Of course, the two book end races are the show stoppers of the film, but in between we get a bit of political intrigue (Roboworld’s government doesn’t’ support the Redline Race) and even a bit of romance between JP and Sonoshee. This movie is so nuts that suddenly it’s the racers vs. the tyrannical government who’s trying to stop the race! This movie is so crazy, so outlandish, that there’s even space for giant Kaiju in this film! I literally couldn’t believe they managed to squeeze in giant monsters into this movie! I mean, this movie is about race cars! But suddenly, there I was, watching giant monsters destroy stuff.
Visually, you’ll never be bored because the Redline Race is a no holds barred type of deal where anything goes, there are no rules, so it gets to a point where cars are shooting missiles at each other, the government is shooting lasers from space to stop the race while the racers are feverishly trying to make it to the finish line! There’s this moment where one of the racers transforms into a giant robot car! There are many visual surprises in store for those who decide to give this visually stunning film a shot. Redline is an experience you'll want to watch and re-watch over and over again.
Rating: 4 out of 5