Film Commentary [9-18-00]
Geeks on the Run - - Adrenaline Drive
Genre: Comedy/action
Grade = B+
Japanese with English subtitles
Available at Hollywood Video

Satoru Suzuki (Ando Masanobu) is a timid employee of a car-rental company who makes the mistake of accidently bumping the car of a Yakuza gangster named Kuroiwa (Matsushige Yutaka). He is subsequently hauled to the gang's offices and told he will have to pay compensation. Shizuko Sato (Ishida Hikari) is a mousy nurse at a local hospital who wears horn-rimmed glasses and an ill-fitting uniform.

While being browbeaten by the Yakuza, a gas explosion rips through the gang's office killing everyone but Satoru and Kuroiwa. Shizuko happens to be walking by when the explosion occurs and rushes in to give aid. She helps Satoru to the ambulance but only after he tells her to grab a large suitcase full of cash. Kuroiwa is also loaded into the ambulance with them. On the way to the hospital, Kuroiwa causes the ambulance to crash into a levee killing the drivers. Shizuko and Satoru, seeing an opportunity of a lifetime, go against their basic character and take the money and run. Unfortunately for them, Kuroiwa is still alive. He and his juvenile Yakuza recruits (some comedy relief) begin the chase.

This makes the second Japanese road picture that I have seen, the first being the terrible Kikujiro earlier this year. This is by far a superior film and has some great comedic moments. Through the course of the film, as the two travel on the run, they begin to change out of their geek persona. Shizuko makes herself over and turns from a drab nothing into a Cinderella. Satoru learns to become assertive and gains self confidence. While the metamorphosis of Satoru is believable, Shizuko's is not particularly so. In the span of a few scenes, she merely buys some new clothes and contact lenses and becomes beautiful. I just didn't buy it.

The standup performance of the film is that of Matsushige Yutaka as the lead Yakuza. He portrays the thug with single-mindedness and with a deadpan expression. He plays the assertive and obnoxious Yakuza even when confined to a hospital bed in a head brace. Also strong is the supporting performance of Kazue Matsugae as the Head Nurse at Shizuko's hospital who is worldly yet is taken in by Kuroiwa.

This is a moderately successful comedy, although not in the same league as the comedies of Juzo Itami (A Taxing Woman, Tampopo), it is nonetheless entertaining and an interesting look at Japanese society.

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