Dir: Sabu.Jap. 2005. 124mins.
Aptly named, Dead Run is a morbid crawl, a tediouslyover-extended wallow in good, evil and teenage angst that manages at once to beluridly over-heated and grindingly turgid.
A first literary adaptation from Sabu(Postman Blues, Unlucky Monkey), it proves a rambling and confused melodrama thatrelies largely on the spurious glamour of its adolescent death-chic, embodiedby prettily blank hero, pop star Yuya Tegoshi.
Beyond appealing to depressed Japanese teenagers - for whomit simply may not be funky enough - the film has nowhere to go. Sales prospectsoutside Asia will probably be minimal.
The film's misleadingly sugary opening presents its setting- a small settlement near the sea, divided into 'Shore' and 'Offshore', thelatter being a wrong-side-of-the-tracks no-go zone built on landfill. It'sthere that young hero Shuji, as a small boy, gets alift from a scary yakuza, who's found dead shortlyafterwards.
A few years on, Shuji (now playedby Tegoshi) is a moody adolescent, overshadowed byhis swot older brother. Shujibecomes fascinated by a new church run by charismatic priest Father Yuichi (Toyokawa), who's alleged to have a criminal past, and whoacts as guardian to orphaned teenage girl Eri (Kan),a sassy outsider at high school who has a grim back story of her own.
Events heat up when a yakuza gang move in with plans tobuild a hotel. From there on, it's one thing after another - violence, arson,sexual initiation from a mobster's glamorous wife (Nakatani),and big-time sturm und drang of both the adolescentand Catholic varieties.
Stacked with flashbacks narrated by different characters invoice-over, Dead Run simply doesn't know when to end; its narrative peculiaritymay well be a direct inheritance from the novel, which one suspectsSabu has not filleted too thoroughly.
The film's most convincing aspects are the presentation ofits odd swampland setting, and a reasonably coherent thread of symmetries andechoes - matching stories of dysfunctional families, troubled brothers,high-school traumas, etc.
But the Catholic perdition-and-redemption theme surroundingthe implausibly glamorous, silken-tressed FatherYuichi is increasingly laboured, eventually veeringoff into cod-Dostoevsky territory.
The final 45 minutes briefly promise to catch fire as Shuji tangles with a vengeful yazuka(Ohsugi) and gets into sleazily weird Blue Velvettouches. But even in its more extreme moments, the film remains unengaging, a problem exacerbated not helped by visualsthat, despite high production values, are consistently pedestrian.
Kadokawa Herald Pictures
adapted from a novel by Kiyoshi Shigematsu