NBFF Review: Redline

It was a Monday night Asian showcase on May 2, 2011, for the Newport Beach Film Festival.  The films featured as spotlight screenings were all products of Asian filmmakers.  To continue to mix up the types of movies I have seen so far, I chose Redline, the first anime film to be featured as a Spotlight Screening for the NBFF.  I ended up making a fantastic choice, as Redline was a hugely entertaining film.  The film is a sci-fi auto racing-themed work of art, featuring incredible animation, a knowingly over-the-top style & story, memorable & hilarious characters, and some slick animated racing action.  I had a ton of fun watching this film, especially in my drive to appreciate anime more.

Frisbee:  They don’t call him “Sweet JP” for nothin’.

The film is set in the distant future.  While technology has advanced far enough for everyone to ride on various types of airborne vehicles, there are still those who love to drive and race with cars, modified and destructive as they are.  Every five years, a race known as Redline takes place, which is the toughest and most destructive underground car race in the universe.  The most elite drivers must earn spots to compete in what becomes a winner-takes-all race to the finish.  There are no real rules to the race, which means anything goes when it comes to foul play.

The hero of this story is a man named JP (voiced by Takuya Kimura).  JP is a bad boy-type; a reckless driver, fitted with piercings, leather jacket, and a massive duck haircut.  He has a history of working with his best friend and mechanic, Frisbee, to participate in these fixed races, so the two can contribute and get paid off by the mob.  Having recently gotten out of prison for fixing races and then participating in another race (which ended in a spectacular crash), JP soon finds that his racing skills still managed to garner him a spot in the next Redline race.

Problems for JP escalate further, as the Redline race is set to take place on a planet known as Roboworld.  Since the race seems to happen anywhere that is decided on, Roboworld is not pleased with the idea of tons of media coverage showing off what is a secretive military zone.  Regardless, the race must go on, and JP is right in the middle of all of this.  He meets all of the other racers as well, including a girl he knew from his younger days, Sanosee (voiced by Yu Aoi), who is one of the favorites to win.  With threats coming from the Roboworld leaders, the mafia, and the other racers, it is going to be one hell of a battle to win an extreme race with no rules.

This film is tons of fun.  It is an assault on the senses, in a very good way, with so much energy dedicated to the making of it. Redline is director Takeshi Koike’s first full-length feature film, which has taken him seven years to complete. It was all worth it, as he and his loyal crew have pulled off such an excellent job of making a fantastically ridiculous racing action film.

Redline plays a lot like a fully-animated comic book. It features various homages made to many talented anime filmmakers, let alone live-action visionaries such as Tarantino or Edgar Wright, given the way some of the manic energy comes across.  Many films come to mind when thinking about how this film stacks up to other similar features.  One can easily place this film alongside say Speed Racer or the pod-racing sequence in Star Wars: Episode 1, as well as a movie like Death Race 2000.  Gamers may even be reminded of the F-Zero racing series when watching or reading about this film.  All of these references speak to the tone this film is going for – a high-speed roller-coaster of fun.

The story has the advantage of presenting something quite simple, despite all of the abstract elements that I will speak more about in a bit.  It has a standard story structure that is very easy to get into.  You follow one racer, and watch as he interacts with the others, reflects on his own experiences, and becomes involved in the crazy, climatic race.  What helps is how incredibly self-aware Redline appears to be.  The movie provides plenty of mocking takes on the way some of the characters have been designed, the use of standard clichés involving some of the characters, the way the music enters into play, and in other ways one would see as quite familiar for an anime.  The key is how well the film manages to play off these aspects as incredibly funny without ever seeming to break its fun spirit.  The film is in on the joke, but it cares enough about its story and characters to maintain a proper balance.

As far as the more abstract elements go, speaking as a person who has enjoyed his fair share of anime, but is in no way an expert, I can say this film falls in line with the type of anime I can appreciate due to how generally approachable it would seem to be.  Redline thrusts you into this world, which features a variety of different species, with almost no setup, yet I feel one can quickly come aboard with the universe this film is presenting.  As it goes on, there are some of those more bizarre elements, which involve how to measure what the stakes are when opponents keep increasing in size, and characters seem to be taking a beating, yet continue, let alone become stronger.  The fact that the film has a purposeful nature in embracing how over-the-top it is helped in not allowing the film to become too weird for my tastes.

The animation by the Madhouse animation studio is terrific.  Working with bright colors and not afraid of backing off from elaborate racing and action sequences, this film is a product of what I can only assume was thousands of hours of work.  Redline used over 100,000 handmade drawings, mixed with the use of computer animation, and it has all worked itself out to become this wonderfully crazy full-length feature.  Additionally, The various character designs were all interesting and handled well enough to create distinct personalities, including the supporting ones.  The designs for the different racing models fall into similar regard.  Great soundtrack as well, with beats that exemplify the energy that this film has and how much fun it is to watch.

Redline was just a joy to watch from start to finish.  It is easily a film that I would have no qualms with purchasing on Blu-ray whenever it hopefully makes its official entrance into the U.S. for all audiences to experience because there is no other way I would wish to see this wonderfully animated film again unless it would be on another big screen.  I know it must have been a positive experience when I feel like I would not mind seeing spin-offs for many of the supporting characters from within this universe.  The whole movie seemed to have me on a rocket that let me blast off along an exciting race track full of color, fun, humor, and plenty of excitement from start to finish line.

Click on the poster to visit the Newport Beach Film Festival website, and be sure to check back to Why So Blu throughout the week for more of my coverage of the festival.

Watch the trailer for Redline here:


Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

1 Response to “NBFF Review: Redline”

  1. Gerard Iribe

    Okay, now this looks rad! Madhouse did the animation, too! If Madhouse does the animation it’s an automatic win!