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Japan 2002

Comedy, Drama


Shin'ichi Tsutsumi
Susumu Terajima
Ren Ohsugi
Masanobu Andô
Ko Shibasaki
Toshio Kakei
Yasuko Matsuyuki
Kanji Tsuda

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Story: Asakura Kenichi (Shin'ichi Tsutsumi) is a salary man who always follows the rules. However, lately he has a continuing headache. A visit at his doctor gets him the information the the origin is stress. In Asakura's life everything is stress that deviates from the way he wants things to be or expects them to be. One day suddenly three masked man get in his car and order him to follow a certain car. Asakura follows the instructions, yet as always he is very fussy when it comes to adhering to the traffic rules so that the car escapes them. The three men are bank robbers who have been betrayed by their partner. The leader Arai (Susumu Terajima) is actually a priest and tells the salary man that no encounter is just a coincidence. And so along with him, Nishi (Ren Ohsugi) and Makoto (Masanobu Andô) Asakura drives through the streets of Tokyo at night. During their trip every one of the four men faces his new fate which will change his life forever.

Review: If you don't know director Sabu you should change that now. The man who two years prior already gave us the fantastic movie "Monday" once again proves to have a hand for drawing what it means to live and the all too familiar problems that come along with it. His fate-centered screenplay as well as the nicely written dialogues are full of humor which makes it easy to enter the unusual world of Sabu, in which fate seems to be waiting for you around every corner and dream sequences find their way into reality. It is fascinating how easy the director makes it for us to dive into his extraordinary cinematic world. For this fact and the worldly wisdom he puts into his movie Sabu deserves some special words of praise.

The movie's title may be irritating because actually this is by no means a racing movie or something the like. In fact the film deals with a man's journey to his inner self. What's especially exciting to watch is that Asakura in no way undergoes a complete change because no matter how strange the events are that carry him away, he still remains himself. A quiet and pedantic salary man who always retains his composure but in the end still has to face his inner demons and leaves that fight with more experience, naturally. Actually, there are some small changes to be made out on him eventually, but at the same time he is still the man he was all the years before. Everything else wouldn't have been believeable anyway.

In its very own way "Drive" is a life-affirming picture. The ending is even more proof of that and leaves us with a smile on our faces. Apart from that there are also some other scenes that can make you smirk. For example there is the bank robber who once was a priest and by accident stumbles on a stage where he starts to insult the punkrock audience because of their aimlessness in life while being accompanied by the a band in the background. And with his words he just resonates with the mind of the juvenile audience (!) so that he finally finds his true calling. It is absurd what kind of coincidences Sabu presents us with, but the director is actually toying with this which is also what creates most of the movie's fun.

There are also some weird scenes, but even they serve a certain purpose and depict dream sequences that you may interpret however you want to. Especially towards the end this dream world starts to overlap reality and so Asakura is forced to defend himself against a samurai of the Edo period with the samurai sword of his father while the fallen soldiers of World War and other past battles surround him. Sabu's ideas are oftentimes odd but never as alienating as they might sound. In his films he shows an insight into the things life is all about, things that aren't easy to wrap into words. That's just why he is one of the most interesting moviemakers of Japan.

Unfortunately, it is often difficult to get your hands on Sabu's movies. But it's definitely worth trying. The movie might not really have the same quality level as "Monday", but it offers good dialogues and nice characters who all have something special about them and as the story progresses they all fall into the place they have in the world. Only seldomly you get the feeling that Asakura is the actual main character of the movie, but towards the end the focus undoubtfully shifts to him. A man who faces going under in society's uniform grey. A yes-man, a man compliant to rules, who in a caricatured fashion reminds us of ourselves and thus makes us question the rules of this world. For this you simply have to appreciate Sabu.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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