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REDLINE - - Review

Strap yourself in for a perfect midnight movie that'll remind you just how fundamentally cool anime can be.

The pompadour actually requires the biggest suspension of disbelief.
The pompadour actually requires the biggest suspension of disbelief.

The unknown, the exotic and the maybe-even-dangerous have been so largely removed from the moviegoing experience - - when marketing saturates total “pre-awareness” before a single foot steps into the theater - - that the notion of a proper midnight movie seems positively alien in its mystique. It’s real hard to imagine going into a late-nite flick with no expectations other than the shapeless ones built up by just a far-out poster and friends' enthusiastic promise of something unlike anything you’ve ever seen.

Maybe it seems far more romantic in my head than it was, in actuality, but REDLINE still offered an exhilarating sense that I’d at last found the proper midnight movie experience - - that I’d gotten secret access to something so cool it was light-years ahead of most people's curve. As odd as it sounds, I'm grateful that my only knowledge of this prior to my viewing was limited to just a brief clip I saw a couple years ago at a comics shop and some enthusiastic word-of-mouth afterward. I'd hate for any of this to have been diluted.

It’s unavoidable to use automotive analogies to describe this racing flick, because it damn sure felt like a shot of nitro in an engine that’d been running on fumes. This is a lucid, visceral reminder of how intrinsically cool anime can be. If your friends, family or co-workers don’t get it, it’s not because of chibi or fan service or anything embarrassing like that - - it’s because they’re boring.

That’s a provocative quality here, equating anime with rock, that I haven’t encountered in too lengthy a time; really since the era when import OAVs promised me how “these aren’t your Dad’s cartoons” during overnight infomercials. The titles from those days seem a lot schlockier, right now, but REDLINE offers a vision of what those dangerous tapes, with their “18+ ONLY” stickers, would be like if they were actually good. No, not good. Phenomenal. Exhilarating. Mind-blowing.

REDLINE plays out something like Speed Racer’s delinquent cousin competing in an iteration of Death Race 2000 that’s been brought to its third or fourth power. It sees a chronically under-performing greaser, “Sweet” JP, stepping up from the smalltime Yellowline race to the be-all, end-all, top-tier Redline with a little help from the mob ties of his alien mechanic/manager/pal, Frisbee. The plan is to fix the race’s off-track betting payout by having this longshot punker intentionally start out slow, come up to the lead from behind and then choke right before he crosses the finish line. JP’s gotten fed up with not playing to his true potential, of course, and - - deadly reprisals be damned - - he won't take a dive this time.

JP races against a mad menagerie of jack rabbits, supervillains, gorillas and even a couple of very human, and very lascivious, “cosplay fiends” who’ve all seemingly been summoned from the wildest depths of graphic mags like 2000 A.D. and HEAVY METAL. As if the race conditions weren’t absurdly dangerous enough, already, this Redline is also being staged on the outlaw planet of Roboworld without the authorization its cyborg overlords.

Such a presumptuous move would be a grave offense, on its own, but the man/machine rulers are doubly incensed for how Redline’s characteristically all-seeing media coverage is surely going to show Roboworld’s secret (and treaty-violating) biological weapons to the rest of the galaxy. Of greatest concern is “Funky Boy,” a gold protoplasmic giant with an absolutely inexhaustible reserve of massive, devastating death rays.

As you might sense, an infectiously anarchic sense of humor colors all this insanity. Here’s a flick that’ll get you chortling with jaunty jibes, absurd ultra-violence and rapturous visual fireworks with equal aplomb. Much like GURREN LAGANN’s preposterous galaxy-sized mecha suits, REDLINE puts JP through ludicrously-inventive rounds of escalation before the race’s breathless finish. His car runs on such hyperbolic power that even its explosion's liable to still offer some helpful forward propulsion.

If we're to touch on some negatives, perhaps you'll ask if we ever get to delve that deep into JP’s psyche? Nope, we don't. Does his accelerated romance with his long-time rival, Sonoshee, adequately convey the nuances of real, human relationships? Nah, not really… but why is that a problem? I elect to take a third option in this appraisal, instead of abiding by what typically seems like a binary choice between dumb and shallow spectacles “you just need to turn your brain off for” and self-serious character dramas made by wet blankets with damp allergies to entertainment.

This is a movie better experienced instinctively than evaluated cerebrally, sure, and the pulsing big beat soundtrack's cranked up high enough to steal Rob Overseer's thunder at a club... but it's definitely not loud, dumb fun. The character development, if you're looking for it, is satisfied right within what it's setting out to do.

If it wasn’t already conceptual enough, the earlier discussion of this being a perfect midnight movie ought to be compounded by saying it also feels like a rare passion project that’s actually came to fruition. This is the first feature directed by Madhouse’s Takeshi Koike, who previously directed the dashing “World Record” short from THE ANIMATRIX, and he notably tasked the studio to develop it for seven years and draw 100,000 of its cels by hand. There are no visible shortcuts taken in this exhaustively-rendered labor of love, and to say enthusiasm exudes out of every cell is to undersell its energy. This was made by animators (and, indeed, dubbed by voice actors) who were unmistakably having an unmediated riot of a time, and it'll guaranteed to blow away anybody who jump into the party.

Check out one of the clips below and get an all-too-fleeting taste of the mayhem...

Tom Pinchuk’s the writer of HYBRID BASTARDS! & UNIMAGINABLE. Order them on Amazon here & here. Follow him on Twitter: @tompinchuk

kashif1on Dec. 5, 2011 at 5:03 p.m.

Madhouse huh, if there is one constant with them its that they'll make something that looks damn good.

Kuma_From_Argentina is online on Dec. 5, 2011 at 5:57 p.m.

I freaking love this movie, I've got it in HD, and watching it at night, with the hdmi connection is just freaking awesome, The music is one of the best selling points for me...

Aetheldodon Dec. 5, 2011 at 6:38 p.m.

Anime is cool ... no doubt about that

metalsnakezeroon Dec. 5, 2011 at 7:21 p.m.

A great movie to watch for its visuals and odd ball characters.

CapeBarnes is online on Dec. 5, 2011 at 7:25 p.m.

If only the F-Zero anime were as fast and awesome as this film.

sickVisionz moderator on Dec. 5, 2011 at 7:37 p.m.

I've been interested in checking this out for a while since I've seen clips of it in Sakuga and MADs and it always seems pretty insane.

@kashif1 said:

Madhouse huh, if there is one constant with them its that they'll make something that looks damn good.

Can't say I agree with that. If there was one constant it'd be that they're animation is either competing for best of the year or worst of the year. Other studios might never reach Madhouse's highs but Madhouse's lows are only rivaled by companies who do visual novels and motion comics.

AURON570on Dec. 5, 2011 at 8:33 p.m.

" If your friends, family or co-workers don’t get it, it’s not because of chibi or fan service or anything embarrassing like that - - it’s because they’re boring."

damn straight.. xD

zaldaron Dec. 5, 2011 at 10:20 p.m.

Sorry tom not sure why you like this. Give me the cerrebral stuff that IS STILL ENTERTAINING like Eva or Gurren Lagen any day. This totally seems like "you just need to turn your brain off" there is no third option. No better than Dragon Ball Z or bleach. I guess I am just boring then....not that I particularly care.

Edit: Yu Yu would be the other show I suppose I could compare this to, but you know my opinions on that all ready and why I am staying away from its discussion.

EganTheVile1on Dec. 5, 2011 at 11:19 p.m.

The art looks like it was pulled from a decent 90's Image comic to me, that said, I will have to see how that art translates in frame rate before I say that is a good thing, since the same could be said of Aeon Flux at a glance of a screen shot, reading more negative comments then positive on this so I am not going in believing the hype, but I give all anime a fair shot so I will watch it

Om1kronon Dec. 5, 2011 at 11:53 p.m.

how did you get your hands on this, it isn't available in the states in english yet last I checked?

No_name_here staff on Dec. 5, 2011 at 11:58 p.m.

@Om1kron said:

how did you get your hands on this, it isn't available in the states in english yet last I checked?

It's screening at the Downtown Independent all this week, dubbed and subbed.

Om1kronon Dec. 6, 2011 at 2:21 a.m.

damnit, I can't catch that showtime due to my new schedule. Oh well. Very glad it's screening.

sickVisionz moderator on Dec. 6, 2011 at 3:13 a.m.

@Tom_Pinchuk: Did you see it subbed? If so, what were the subtitles like? I've had major issue with Funimation's super thin border subtitles in the past. The Trigun BLR ones blended into the background and were illegible so often that I was forced to watch it dubbed.

ComicMan24on Dec. 6, 2011 at 3:46 a.m.

That anime was amazing. Just pure fun. It reminded me of Wacky Races at some point. Sure plot wise it wasn't anything that great but it never said it was in the first place.

sotyfan16on Dec. 6, 2011 at 9:12 a.m.

I heard this just came out dubbed in theaters and it was good. I've been curious about this movie for a while and it feels like a year since it came out overseas. Not sure when I'll get around to seeing this.

LPon Dec. 6, 2011 at 9:54 a.m.

@AURON570 said:

" If your friends, family or co-workers don’t get it, it’s not because of chibi or fan service or anything embarrassing like that - - it’s because they’re boring."

THIS is the single coolest thing Tom has ever said in any of his reviews.

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