(U.S. Release: 2000)
by Del Harvey
Originally released in Japan in 1996, Non-Stop is an exciting mix of existentialist tale and action film.
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The culture of Japan is remarkedly different from most other countries in some oddly unique ways. Even so, there are still many similarities in even our societies that render certain attitudes and moral concepts as imminently familiar. Thus it is that a film so full of quirky and uniquely Japanese moralities can still be relevant to Western culture. In particular, the qualities of being male, of being a “man,” bridges the gap between our cultures.
Non-Stop’s story is fairly simple. A man at the end of his rope feels he is not good at being “manly.” He has lost his job and his girl, and seems to have lost all hope. In a twisted attempt at living up to his personal interpretation of a societal concept, he decides to prove his manhood by robbing a bank. But he is a failure even at this; as he is about to enter the bank he realizes he has forgotten his mask. He decides to steal one from a nearby convenience store, but of course he fails at this and soon has the clerk chasing him down the street. They run into a Yakuza (gangster) whom the clerk owes money, and he joins the chase. Their run takes them into the evening and as we follow their stories are told in flashback.
Non-Stop is at times funny, at times thought-provoking, and always engrossing. The chase as thread tying together all the character?s lives is an inventive way of taking an existentialist tale and stuffing it into an action theme. Director/writer Sabu (Hiroyuki Tanaka) has done an excellent job of marrying the sort of operatic themes Kurosawa popularized with contemporary concepts of Japanese shock cinema. The result is an intriguing dissection of civilized man in an often uncivilized world.
The cinematography is at times jerky and bears the aforementioned shock factor, but all with purpose. The soundtrack is unobtrusive, which is a plus for such a film. The staging of scenes as combined with the direction and the acting is always of extreme importance in Asian cinema, and the execution of all these factors produces a very exciting film. Tomorowo Taguchi plays Yakuda, the would-be robber. Diamond Yukai plays Aizawa, the store clerk. And Shinichi Tsutsumi plays Takeda, the Yakuza.
Non-Stop is showing only in a few theatres around the country. As fresh and innovative as Run, Lola, Run, Non-Stop will soon be available on video. Hunt it down and watch it.
Del Harvey is the founder of Film Monthly and lives in Chicago. He is a survivor of Lucasfilm, the Walt Disney Company, and the Directors Guild of America.
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