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    The wrong run

    "Non-Stop" may have helped inspire "Run Lola Run," but it falls way behind in plot and smarts.


    Murky and confused, the Japanese import "Non-Stop" (Dangan Ranna) is a pale precursor to Tom Tykwer's exhilarating "Run Lola Run" from 1998. Both films share a central premise of a shady deal gone awry resulting in a pivotal figure — in "Non-Stop" it's actually three protagonists — run, run, running for their life/lives. And there's also the intriguing plot device of learning more about our leading player(s) as time elapses, through flashbacks and fast forwards.

    Original title: Dangan Ranna.
    Written and directed by: Hiroyuki Tanaka (Sabu).
    Cast: Tomoro Taguchi, Diamond Yukai, Shinichi Tsutsumi.
    Cinematography: Shuji Kuriyama.
    In Japanese with English subtitles.

    Related links: Official site | All of David N. Butterworth's reviews at Rotten Tomatoes
    But there the comparisons end.

    "Non-Stop" was actually made in 1996 but is only now seeing a U.S. release thanks — but not many — to those indie promoters over at Shooting Gallery. So it's more likely that, if anything, Tykwer borrowed from writer/director Hiroyuki Tanaka (typically credited as Sabu as he is here). If Tykwer did draw his inspiration from "Non-Stop," then he improved upon the original no end.

    Tomoro Taguchi plays a would-be bank robber who, as the film opens, is plotting one big score. Forgetting his mask, he ducks into a local convenience store and ineptly shoplifts one, which is when the chase begins. Hurtling along, the thief's pursuer (the store clerk, played by Diamond Yukai) clumsily collides with a local Yakuza (Shinichi Tsutsumi plays the gangster) who subsequently takes up the pursuit.

    Much of the film's scant 82-minute running time is made up of these three grown men dashing through the streets of downtown Tokyo, all keeping an oddly safe and equal distance from each other. These men share a common bond in that they are losers: Yasuda (Taguchi) cannot hold down even the most menial of jobs as a kitchen aide, and his planned robbery is partly an attempt to impress his girlfriend; Aizawa (Yukai) is a would-be rock star with a heroin habit; and Takeda (Tsutsumi) is living with the stigma of letting his mob boss take a fatal hit.

    Whereas "Run Lola Run" was an adrenaline rush from start to finish, "Non-Stop" is just plain silly. Tykwer's film was smart and kinetic, its heroine alive and ablaze, its real and imagined situations by turns creative and absurd, pulsing with portent and unpredictability. "Non-Stop" is none of these. It feels amateurish and uneven. Even the subtitles are often times poorly translated.

    Likewise the film is supposed to be a black comedy but there are few laughs to be found among the shattered lives and machismo violence. One Asian family in the audience, who perhaps detected some culturally significant reference, was laughing uncontrollably during a sequence in which the runners pass an attractive woman who has stooped to pick something up. Momentarily distracted from their ultimate fate, all three men have similar (sexual) fantasies as they breeze on by.

    While more clever than amusing, this scene is one of the few in which the director actually appears to be in control of his material, taking full advantage of the inventive gimmick at the center of his film. Otherwise, "Non-Stop" is a long haul, a never-ending marathon of good intentions marred by missed opportunities.

    NOVEMBER 15, 2000

    Reader comments on Non-Stop:

  • Just call you Mr. Butterfingers   from D, Nov 5, 2002
  • Orginal   from David, Nov 8, 2003
  • Movie review, 'Non Stop'   from JerryB, Apr 6, 2007

  • Post a comment on "Non-Stop"