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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

REDLINE -- DVD review by porfle


Sizzling with supercharged action, the simple plot of director Takeshi Koike's sci-fi anime REDLINE (2009) serves as a backdrop for some of the most mindblowing, audacious cartoon animation to ever blaze its way across the screen. 

The pre-titles sequence features a qualifying "Yellowline" race in the desert that already makes the podrace from THE PHANTOM MENACE look like a frog-jumping competition.  We meet J.P., who resembles a brawny Ricky Nelson with a skyscraper pompadour and, thanks to his crooked partner Frisbee, has a reputation for fixing races.  Sure enough, Frisbee's in deep with the mob on this one and sabotages J.P.'s car near the finish line, landing him in the hospital.

When some of the qualifiers for the Redline drop out, J.P.'s back in the game along with his heartthrob Sonoshee, a lovely lass with more interest in machines than men.  But the location for the race turns out to be Roboworld, a militaristic society whose leaders are so opposed to the competition taking place on their world (and possibly having some of their military secrets broadcast galaxy-wide) that they declare all-out war against the racers.  In order to win this one, J.P. will have to battle it out against ruthless drivers (including Sonoshee), the entire military force of Roboworld, and perhaps even his own sidekick Frisbee.
 


Fans of non-CGI animation should have a ball reveling in this 100% hand-drawn visual feast, whose creators invested seven years and 100,000 drawings in its making.  Each frame of this dazzling tribute to old-school cartoon wizardry is as insanely detailed as panels from the more extravagant underground comix of the 60s and 70s, and unlike digital cartoons you can see the artists' and animators' hands in every painstaking detail. 

The dynamic, hard-edged drawing style, a eye-pleasing mix of both the futuristic and retro, yields a wealth of beautifully-rendered character designs and backgrounds that are then brought to vivid life.  Surreal touches, such as J.P.'s gravity-defying hairdo and an endless parade of grotesque aliens, rub shoulders with the hard-edged yet wildly-imaginative hardware of cars, spaceships, and other machinery. 

The over-the-top character design (by co-writer Katsuhito Ishii, who also worked on the anime sequence from KILL BILL, VOL. 1 and helped create REDLINE's outstanding soundtrack) goes well with the film's larger-than-life cast of oddballs.  These include J.P.'s multi-armed canine mechanic Pops, the towering cyborg Machine Head, and the various other racers whose bizarre appearance and unique personalities keep things interesting.  Even the crowd scenes are filled with a vast array of colorful "extras."
 


While the plot busies itself with various concerns such as J.P.'s wooing of the reluctant Sonoshee and Frisbee's conflict of loyalties between him and the mob, REDLINE roars to life during its many spectacular action sequences.  The imposing Colonel Votron and his Roboworld army launch a full-scale attack on the racers that begins when they leave the mothership and attempt to land their shuttle vehicles on the planet.  The race itself is a non-stop series of thrilling setpieces which lead to the activation of the Roboworld president's ace in the hole, an out-of-control behemoth known as "Funky Boy" who proceeds to destroy everything in sight.  

The DVD from Anchor Bay's "Manga" label is in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby 5.1 and 2.0 soundtracks in both Japanese and English, with English subtitles.  Extras consist of a 24-minute making-of featurette and the film's trailer. 

Thrilling, funny, and endlessly watchable, REDLINE is chock-full of some of the most visually-stunning racing action and futuristic warfare ever created for an animated film.  Best of all, it's a return to the glory days of hand-drawn animation which, in the words of its creators, offers something new by doing things the old way again. 


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