Saturday, October 20, 2018

Dangan Runner (1996)

Director: SABU
Notable Cast: Tomorowo Taguchi, Diamond Yukai, Shinichi Tsutsumi

SABU, whose career I'm only familiar with in his recent stretch, Miss Zombie and Chasuke's Journey springing to mind, is a visionary director whose earlier catalog is dying to see light outside of Japan. Thanks to Third Window Films, his debut is getting a second wind and hopefully winning a long overdue audience that it most definitely deserves. Dangan Runner is a cult classic waiting to be seen.

We are thrown into the action from frame one, which the set up is fun enough itself to not spoil, but essentially one would-be robber named Yasuda, played by Tomorowo Taguchi of Tetsuo: The Iron Man fame is being chased by a local convenient store clerk who is a washed up, coked out rock star who has fallen from his heyday, and a wandering Yakuza member (Shinichi Tsutsumi) whom they happen to bump into. We then spend almost the entirety of the rest of the film watching these three endlessly chase after each other, inter-spliced with various flashbacks and fantasy sequences slowly piecing together the backstory of each of the three runners.

Run, Iron Man, run ! ! !

While it doesn't always work, particularly in the brief dramatic moments, Dangan Runner shines with its comedic gags and timing. The editing and montages throughout can be quite experimental at times, calling to mind the works of Shinya Tsukamoto, at times even matching his manic energy.

All three of our leads do a fine job, each portraying men on the bottom fringes of society in different aspects and giving them just enough levity to make them somehow likable as they run amok through the streets of Japan.

Rock out with your gun out.

While I wish it would've flown off the hinges a little more by its end, I think Dangan Runner is a fine debut of an underrated director, whose works demands further exposure. It's the perfect mix of schlock, sleaze, and gun wielding laughter that will please most genre fans.

Written by Josh Parmer

The New Third Window Films blu-ray coming in November of 2018 includes a limited edition slipcase with exclusive artwork, a video essay on V-Cinema by Japanese Film Expert Tom Mes, and a brand new interview with SABU, giving great insights and an overview of his career as a director. This is easily one of the best blu-ray releases of the year.

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