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Original Title:
Adorenarin doraibu

Japan 1999


Shinobu Yaguchi

Masanobu Ando
Hikari Ishida
Yutaka Matsushige
Kazue Tsunogae
Yu Tokui
Kirina Mano
Mikita Ogata
Taro Suwa

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Adrenaline Drive

Story: Suzuki (Masanobu Ando) finds himself in a little car accident. The victim unfortunately, is the gangster Kuroiwa (Yutaka Matsushige) who takes Suzuki to his Yakuza-Boss where he wants to talk about the damage-settlement. In the same exact moment a gas explosion occurs in the Yakuza-headquarters. Suzuki survives the explosion with little injuries while Kuroiwa receives severe breaches. The other gangsters don't survive the incident. The nurse Shizuko (Hikari Ishida) happens to be around and hurries to help them. Suzuki and Shizuko recognize a suitcase with money, which they instantly take with them. Then, on the way to the hospital, the ambulance has an accident. As they think that none of the gangsters survived, the two of them decide to keep the money and share it.
But the story they told the police seems to leak out as they get to know that Kuroiwa is still alive. Suzuki and Shizuko flee with the money, but Kuroiwa does not even think of calling in the police and rather puts his gang onto the two. The gang, however, plans to keep the money for themselves, once they have it. There's nothing else for Kuroiwa but to leave his sickbed on crutches and to chase after Suzuki and Shizuko, who in the meantime have become a fictitious married couple...

Review: This time Shinobu Yaguchi ("My Secret Cache") attends the well-known gangster-chase-youths-who-stole-their-money plot. This seems just too familiar and leads to the question whether the movie is even worth to be seen. The answer is simple: Yaguchi!
For the director manages it to provide the movie with his very own, unique style. Needless to say that due to its topic, the movie is full of clichés, with which is played around quite often, so that in some points, the movie can surprise you very much.

Though being a light-hearted comedy movie, "Adrenaline Drive" also has its serious moments. But despite of its title one should not expect a hardcore-action movie. Though the pace itself is quite good, but never breathtakingly fast. At the beginning the movie actually is quite leisurely, but after a while, the tempo gets faster.
Having its positive sites, as the sometimes subtle, sometimes slapstick-like humor, the movie also gets some negative criticism. Here again, should be mentioned, the non-inventive plot and the more or less average cinematography.

As it is typical for Yaguchis movies, this one, too, has its strength in its characters. Masanobu Ando plays shy Suzuki, who just doesn't manage it to tell his boss off, even though, he wanted to quit his job, either way. And with this very same boss, Ando has some pretty nice scenes. His development to the, yet still small but at least now spine-possessing, boy is very convincing.

Hikari Ishida plays the boring and also shy nurse Shizuko, who goes through an development in her behaviour, too. Actually, she is the one who pulls the strings in the end. Suzuki can hardly defy her. Her change to a new woman is also depicted visually. She throws away her glasses, buys some decent dresses and gets a new haircut! And there you go: From an Ugly Duckling to a beautiful woman... too familiar? Indeed. And sometimes, such scenes devalue the movie quite a bit. But on the other side, some clichés are very well fooled around with. The compulsive almost-kiss-scene is interrupted in a not so usual way and the fact that Suzuki just manages to hobble around doesn't disturb him as he shakes off the Yakuza-Gang with a sprint. Of course, there is some head scratching, when you think about the two's wits. In one moment Shizuko notes very wisely, that they should keep on living as normal as possible, so that they would not attract any attention to their sudden richness, and in the next moment they stay in an expensive hotel, become a fictitious married couple an tell everybody about their whereabouts. Even though they know that Kuroiwa still breathes down their neck.

One of the biggest criticisms would nevertheless be, that there is no good chemistry between the two leads. Separately, the two are good; they just don't work as a couple.
But at least there is a brilliant villain, who (being a villain) is mostly bad, while also having an exceptionally dry and reckless sense of humour. At the beginning, Yutaka Matsushige's presentation of his character may still seem a bit superficial, but by and by, he changes and depicts a little highlight in the movie.
Also Kazue Tsunogae's work, deserves to be mentioned, as she plays the head nurse and develops a very unique charm. The other characters kind of fall by wayside, especially the gangster-gang, who just stay what they are: typical bad guys.

With regards to the direction, the movie is solid; Yaguchi proves again that he has a keen sense for timing of certain scenes and speed itself, for the movie never gets stuck. It is also pretty remarkable, that some scenes were filmed, very long in only one shot. But somehow you can also see, that the movie didn't have that much of a budget, because, as already mentioned, the cinematography seems a bit "boring".

"Adrenaline Drive" is not really a disappointment, but sometimes the movie just lacks that kind of passion, which is so typical for Yaguchi's other work. There aren't really big laughs either, but you will have some smiles upon your face. And for many, this will be enough, especially as the movie offers good entertainment, even if I had expected a bit more.
In the end, due to the quite familiar plot and the predictable end, you can't thoroughly enjoy the movie.
Nevertheless you have to give Yaguchi credit for upgrading the well-known chased-by-gangsters topic with the right speed. But compared to his own standards, the director can't beat his previous works or his future movies with "Adrenaline Drive".

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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