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Movie Review

Run, Yasuda, Run? 'Non-Stop' Action in Streets of Tokyo

November 10, 2000|KEVIN THOMAS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

"Non-Stop" is a dark, sly Japanese action comedy that plays like a "Run Lola Run"--times three. Cleverly structured, with a slam-bam score and style to burn, it marks the razzle-dazzle directorial debut of the actor known only as Sabu. Yes, it is violent, but the bloodshed is part of a sendup of yakuza mayhem.

Yasuda (Tomoro Taguchi) plays a boyish-looking young Tokyo restaurant kitchen helper, bullied outrageously and finally fired; he thereupon decides to rob a bank in desperation. Just as zero hour in his carefully worked out timetable approaches, he realizes he forgot to bring along a mask to hide his identity.

Luckily, there's a large convenience store near the bank, but, perhaps to save time, he foolishly tries to lift a mask, only to be spotted by the clerk, Aizawa (Diamond Yukai, who also composed the film's score), a husky, long-haired guy who is actually a flash-in-the-pan rock star who has hastened his skid with hard drugs. Forgetting all about his holdup plan, Yasuda starts running, with Aizawa in close pursuit. Alas, Aizawa collides with the handsome yakuza thug Takeda (Shinichi Tsutsumi), to whom he owes big bucks. The collision between the two has a domino effect that triggers an underworld war and sends Takeda running as well.

In short order, "Non-Stop" has three men chasing through the nighttime streets of Tokyo, so long and so hard that surely they lose sight of what they're running from--or toward. This shifts them into a state of mental limbo that leads to a payoff as clever as the way in which the plot is set up in the first place. For Yasuda the running has an exhilarating, liberating effect of freedom and confidence that he has never before experienced. Without being forced to take flight, Yasuda would most likely never been transformed--you have the feeling that the holdup almost certainly would have gone wrong one way or another had he actually gone through with it.

"Non-Stop" is slight but sure-fire fun, too brutal for kids even though the context is comical. Sabu, who appeared in the curiously titled "World Apartment Horror," a big hit in Japan, proves to be a real dynamo behind the camera with "Non-Stop."

* Unrated. Times guidelines: strong violence, language, adult themes.

'Non-Stop'

Tomoro Taguchi: Yasuda

Diamond Yukai: Aizawa

Shinichi Tsutsumi: Takeda

A Shooting Gallery presentation. Writer-director Sabu. Producer Masaya Nakamura. Executive producer Moto Seta. Cinematographer Syuji Kuriyama. Editor Shinji Tanaka. Music Diamond Yukai. Fight choreographer Hideo Saito. Production designer Mitsuo Endo. In Japanese, with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 22 minutes.

Exclusively at the Beverly Center Cinemas, Beverly Boulevard at La Cienega Boulevard, (310) 777-FILM (No. 172) and (310) 652-7760.

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