ADRENALINE DRIVE (Adorenarin Doraibu)

(director/writer/editor: Shinobu Yaguchi; cinematographer: Takeshi Hamada ; music: Seiichi Yamamoto/Rashinban; cast: Hikari Ishida (Shizuko Sato), Masanobu Ando (Satoru Suzuki), Jovi Jova (a performance comedy troupe made up of 6 hooligans), Yutaka Matushige (Kuroiwa), Kazue Tsunogae (Head Nurse); Runtime: 112; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Kiyoshi Mizokami/Kenichi Itaya/Tomohiro Kobayashi; The Shooting Gallery; 1999-Japan)


“It plays as a gentle spoof on yakuza films…”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Shinobu Yaguchi’s road romantic comedy feels all-too-familiar. It’s as light as a summer breeze, but it succeeds in its limited aim to be a crowd pleaser. It plays as a gentle spoof on yakuza films and especially hones in on Kitano’s Boiling Point, but here the filmmaker shoots for humor. It’s about a young socially backward duo who get up enough nerve to quit their jobs and flee with a bag full of yakuza money, and then are pursued by sundry gangsters and experience all kinds of travails on the road.

The diffident and stupified Suzuki (Masanobu Ando) unhappily works for a car rental company and can’t get up enough nerve to tell his bullying boss off. While Suzuki’s driving, the boss as a sick joke cups his hands over his eyes causing him to plow into the shiny Jaguar in front of him that stopped for a light. That car belongs to a yakuza strong-arm named Kuroiwa (Yutaka Matushige), who takes Suzuki hostage to the gang’s headquarters as Suzuki’s boss divorces himself from the situation. Suzuki is intimidated by the many thugs and the mean-spirited Kuroiwa fractures one of his fingers, as he tells the frightened youngster the huge sum of money he owes for the collision. The car rental boss leaves his worker out to dry by not even reporting the incident to the insurance company or the police, as the only thing that saves Suzuki is that the yakuza headquarters gets destroyed by a gas explosion that kills everyone but only slightly wounds Suzuki and leaves Kuroiwa barely alive in a critical condition requiring hospitalization.

Shizuko (Hikari Ishida) is a nurse who could be a kindred nerdy spirit to Suzuki. She is socially awkward, shy, bespectacled, and doesn’t know how to have fun, as she dedicates herself only to work. This gets gossipy comments about her social flaws from the other young nurses, who send her out on an errand. Since she happened to be in the area of the explosion, she helps get the two victims an ambulance and goes with them to General Hospital. But when the ambulance crashes, Suzuki is unharmed and steals the yakuza’s illegal gambling money that’s still in the ambulance. He tells her he’s not a gangster and Shizuko without even a bat of an eyelash helps him gobble up the blood-soaked money, enough to live happily ever after, which she washes at her dorm in the laundry machine and then tumble-dries. These two inept and inexperienced youngsters become adventurous travelers together. They head for a luxurious mountain retreat, where they pretend they are a married couple living it up. When she takes off her glasses, gets her hair done, and buys some fancy new dresses, she becomes a looker. But awkward interactions prevail between the two, who connect but can’t seem to make the final sexual connection. In the meantime, the vengeful Kuroiwa flees from the hospital to pursue them, as well as a gang of boisterous punky hooligans (comedy troupe Jovi Jova) who work for his yakuza organization and were ordered by Kuroiwa to bring back the money. But the gang decides that Kuroiwa is too critically injured to hurt them and they go after the money for themselves and betray the still fearsome gangster–the only one still left from the yakuza high-command. Also, a thief steals Shizuko’s backpack, which contains her share of the money. Suzuki attempts to retrieve it, as he boards the same bus as the fleeing bag-snatcher. But he’s arrested as a drunk, and the bus driver thinks that he’s actually the thief. Instead, Shizuko catches up with her offender after chasing him down while running after the bus barefooted. When caught the thief has a heart attack. So she gives him CPR, saving his life, and becomes a hero commended by the police.

“Adrenaline” is equivalent to a mainstream Hollywood film. It’s not that fast paced for a film titled adrenaline; but, it mixes in a good balance between action and comedy, never letting the two clash. The film tries to point out that it’s not the money that counts, but it’s their main characters’ personalities which have grown and become more self-assertive that matters. I don’t believe the filmmaker did a convincing job of showing that, as the twist ending didn’t work for me. Also, the comedy was too mild and the worn-out plot failed to excite.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”