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MOVIES THAT DON’T SUCK: ‘Redline’ is low on plot but high on style

(Juniors Grant Miner and Max Shukuya will share this new weekly movie blog.) 

I’ve always thought it unfortunate when two movies of vastly differing quality share the same name.

For example, when a movie called “Redline” was suggested to me, I thought of 2007’s “Need for Speed” wannabe.

In order to avoid writing a review about two movies, here’s an abbreviated version: if you, for whatever masochistic reason, want to watch the 2007 “Redline,” make sure to bring enough holy water to thoroughly rinse your TV. If it still feels unclean, burn it.

However, three years later, the name “Redline” once again graced American screens. And, thankfully, it fully makes up for its predecessor’s transgressions.

“Redline” is director Takeishi Koike’s first foray into filmmaking after a sizable career at Madhouse Entertainment (a name that doesn’t mean much to those who aren’t fans of anime). It may be his debut, but, boy, does he know what he’s doing.

The recipe for “Redline” is as follows: Take “Speed Racer,” mix in some “Death Race 2000” (no, you can’t use the 2008 reboot), and give it a shining anime finish. Set it to bake and you’ll have yourself a great car movie that positively oozes with style.

To give you a good idea of what you’re in for, “Redline’s” plot revolves around a man named JP who rocks a foot-long pompadour and races a Trans Am in space.

100% ridiculous. 100% awesome.

The animation alone could give you good reason to watch this movie.

Anime has historically been known for its great visuals, but Koike takes it to a whole new level. The thick outlining gives the film a stylized,  comic-book feel. Additionally, the innumerable small quirks that the animators added to convey speed—such as cars stretching out when they use their “boost” (it sounds bad on paper, but believe me, it works)—make the racing scenes a real treat.

The soundtrack is sublime, too. In an age when too many movies do the copy/pasted “action theme,” it’s lovely to see a film put that much effort into a great soundtrack. While there are only three or four tracks that merit a second listen, the fact that there are any at all should mean something.

Combined with the animation, the soundtrack makes for some stellar racing scenes. If you’re not in love with the movie after the first race, I’ll refund everything you paid for it. (Not really, as it’s available here for free, courtesy of the American distributors).

Unfortunately, the movie falls on its face in the same way its “ingredients” do: the story serves as a link between racing scenes. Not that it’s bad, per se, but it leaves a lot to be desired.

It feels like Koike went down the checklist with this one. The race is dangerous (check) because the government of the planet doesn’t want them there. There is conflict (check) because JP’s best friend has Mafia ties and wants to fix the race. There is romance (check) in the form of racing rival Frisbee (no, the names don’t get less ridiculous).

That said, you’re never going to be bored, but the plotlines do seem a little trite.

The dubbing (assuming you’ve renounced the Puritan ideals of the hard-core anime fans) is good for the most part.

But sometimes close-up views of somebody talking can get a little awkward because of syncing problems.

Oh, “Redline,” I just can’t stay mad at you.The film’s saving grace is that it’s just so damn stylish. I can accept that the film appealed directly to my inner 10-year-old. I can also accept that it’s basically a 102- minute long, epilepsy-inducing Saturday morning cartoon wrapped in a paper-thin storyline.

But I like Saturday morning cartoons.

Edit: Earlier this headline called this 2009 movie “New”. This has been corrected.

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