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D.A.N.G.A.N. Runner

A vignettish idea that easily manages to go the distance, "D.A.N.G.A.N Runner" is a wacky, explosive helming debut by Japanese actor Sabu (from Katsuhiro Otomo's "World Apartment Horror") that should find specialized theatrical sales in the West as well as a string of fest slots. Cult recognition beckons. Wry comedic tone immediately is set with the introduction of Yasuda (Tomorowo Taguchi), an inept youth who's a dweeb with the opposite sex and desperately wants to become famous. Deciding to rob a bank, he realizes at the last moment he has forgotten his mask, so tries to buy one in a store. Bungling even that simple task, he starts to run through the Tokyo streets, pursued by shopkeeper Aizawa (composer Diamond Yukai), a failed rock musician whom he has shot in the arm.

With:
Shinkichi Yasuda ..... Tomorowo Taguchi Kenji Aizawa ..... Diamond Yukai Kazuo Takeda ..... Shinichi Tsutsumi Killer ..... Sabu

En route, Aizawa accidentally prevents a knife-wielding yakuza, Takeda (Shinichi Tsutsumi), from achieving a flashy suicide after failing to protect his boss. Majorly pissed, Takeda starts running after Aizawa.

As night falls and the trio keep running, they fall prey to various fantasies and forget the original reasons for the chase. Now a trio bound by a common exhilaration, they finally chance on a roomful of warring yakuza, who speak entirely in American gangster cliches.

The lunatic idea of three losers united (and transfigured) by the endorphin rush from physical exertion, on a trip to nowhere, is never allowed to cloy, thanks to plenty of visual jokes (the trio grabbing beverages on their way, like long-distance runners) and the slightly woozy, almost drug-induced tone that suffuses the movie. At Berlin fest screenings, Sabu noted his admiration for Sam Peckinpah and Quentin Tarantino, but beyond its last-stand tone and surface gunplay the movie is rooted more in the Japanese subgenre of existential yakuza pics, here given a witty spin.

Playing is, well, strenuous, and tech credits all fine; film’s Japanese title means “bullet runner.” Sabu has already completed his second movie, “Postman Blues,” about a mail carrier who continues doing his job after an apocalypse.

D.A.N.G.A.N. Runner

Japanese

Production: A Nikkatsu Corp. production. (International sales: Nikkatsu, Tokyo.) Produced by Moto Seta. Directed, written by Sabu.

Crew: Camera (color), Shuji Kuriyama; editor, Shinji Tanaka; music, Daisuke Okamoto; art direction, Mutsumi Nasu, Mitsuo Endo; sound, Hiroshi Yamagata. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Panorama), Feb. 20, 1997. Running time: 80 MIN.

With: Shinkichi Yasuda ..... Tomorowo Taguchi Kenji Aizawa ..... Diamond Yukai Kazuo Takeda ..... Shinichi Tsutsumi Killer ..... Sabu

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