Adrenaline Drive

                 A cross between a gangster drama and a lovers-on-the-run flick,
ADRENALINE DRIVE, Shimbou Yaguichi's quirky comedy that debuted
         in NYC at The Film Society of Lincoln Center's "New Directors/New Films"
         series, is meant to parody the popular romances devoured by teenage
         Japanese girls. In bringing together its unlikely pair -- he's a slow-witted
         rental car clerk, she's a mousy nurse -- the film deconstructs the generic
         forms of romantic comedies and spins its tale out to a surprising yet
         satisfying conclusion.

                 The opening sequences set up the two leads. Suzuki (Masanobu Ando)
         accidentally rear-ends the Jaguar of a Yakuza [a Japanese gangster] who
         demands restitution. Suzuki finds himself in the gangster's headquarters
         where the bumbling crooks seem to literally fall over one another. Told he
         must make restitution, Suzuki begins to realize the gravity of his situation
         when a gas explosion levels the place. As it happens, Shizuro (Hikari Ishida),
         a nurse, is on her way to pick up snacks for her co-workers in the
         neighborhood. Arriving to offer help, she and Suzuki grab a suitcase of
         money and flee. This being a comedy, there are, of course complications,
         including an Energizer Bunny of a gangster (Yutaka Matsushinge) who
         has more lives than a cat. Despite landing in the hospital in a body cast,
         he manages to send his gang (played with Keystone Kop precision by the
         comedy troupe Jova Jovi) after the money.

                 Suzuki and Shizuro eventually flee the city and embark on a spending
         spree. In typical fashion, the plain Jane heroine undergoes a sexy makeover,
         exchanging her dorky glasses for contacts, her messy hairstyle for a chic do
         and her nurse's garb for a sexy designer frock. The pair, haunted somewhat
         by guilt over their deceptions, gradually move from grudging tolerance
         to full-bodied romance. The film's humor arises mostly out of the flouting
         of Japanese social codes which admittedly don't necessarily translate
         to belly laughs for American audiences. Some of the supporting roles
         are played broadly and the seemingly indomitable bad guy is one of those
         only-in-the-movies characters, but the leads make a likable match. They
         grow on one another and on the audience as well. Director Yaguchi
         manages to keep
ADRENALINE DRIVE charging along until it eventually
         hits its kicker of a twist ending.

                                         Rating:                C+
© 2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.