Intriguing but unsatisfying, “Rat Race” recalls the grimy futuristic visions of Godard’s “Alphaville” and Von Trier’s “The Element of Crime,” to occasionally striking effect. But murky story development finally lands this in the “much style, not enough substance” bin. Short running time is another liability, lending pic little commercial appeal beyond that to adventuresome broadcast programmers.
After a fleetingly noted international “currency breakdown,” human life doesn’t count for much — forced body-part “donations” and pill-popping seem to be the primary driving forces in this seamy, noirish Vienna of the future. Addicted to gambling on the titular races, grizzled Kater (Hayman Maria Buttinger) is out of luck. To pay off his debts, he’s sucked into a double-cross-laden morass of transplants and brain tampering that soon involves his ex-g.f. and her crime-boss lover. Moody B&W effort looks great on a low budget and gets grotesquely comic mileage from some high-queasiness sequences. But any serious resonance from central theme (are we still ourselves if our memory is erased?) is sapped by increasingly obscure, flashback-heavy script. That, combined with unsympathetic characters, makes pic grow dullish despite its brief length. Tech package is resourceful.