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Blu-ray Reviews
Friday, 11 November 2011 00:00
RedlineRedline. If you listen to the hype, it's one of the best animated movies of the year; a title with genuine crossover appeal; a rip-roaring thrill ride; and, to some, the Saviour of Anime as we know it. All of which gives it rather a lot to live up to...

Following his dream to become one of the hottest racers in the universe, daredevil driver "Sweet" JP has attracted a loyal band of followers thanks to his cool retro-fashion style, his hyper-customized vehicle and his habit of frequently ending his races with a spectacular crash. What very few people know about JP is he is deep in the pocket of the mob and is often paid to lose races. Following his latest escapade, during which his engine explodes and his car is virtually written off, JP is ready to throw in the towel on auto racing. That is until he discovers has inadvertently qualified for the prestigious no-rules, anything is allowed Redline race after two other drivers have pulled out - and for very good reason. The race is scheduled to take place on the military planet of Roboworld, and its government has threatened to kill all the participants. Despite the danger, JP decides to go ahead and take his shot risking everything in his pursuit of the ultimate auto racing title...

Frisbee & JPTaking odds


The Redline is the most dangerous in an interplanetary racing series, which seem to be named on a sliding scale of the danger involved. We hear about the Blueline early in the movie, which opens with the Yellowline well in progress - but it's the Redline that everyone wants to see. If you think Cannonball Run, you won't be too far fron the mark on the race's ethos - very much not a legally-sanctioned event, the contestants are having to deal with The Law as much as with each other, and with the law in this case being a group of military leaders who clearly very much believe in the idea of "overkill", you can easily figure out what their plans for stopping the race will involve.

The movie is essentially split into two halves. The first is the run-up to the race, and explores JP's shady past, the other characters involved in the line races, and shows them making preparations for the race. This is the more slowly-paced half - note that I don't say "slow", as Redline simply doesn't do "slow" - and, once you get past the jaw-dropping animation, it's good stuff. What it doesn't do is go into a lot of depth - the characters get whirlwind introductions, often presented as TV profile segments on the Redline News Network, and it's zipping onto the next scene almost before you get a chance to take in what's going on, but in a way that's what the movie is about: speed, and speed is as much a part of its storytelling as it is of the Redline race itself.

The race, as you've probably worked out by now, takes up the second half of the series. With the Redline organisers having called on some paramilitary help to make sure that the race passes of at least mostly peacefully, JP and his rivals can get down to the serious business of being first across the finish line. The PR for the movie makes reference to it being Wacky Races meets Star Wars' podraces, and you can certainly see where that comes from - the characters and range of vehicles on display do have something of the Wacky Races about them, while the no-holds-barred approach that the podraces has is very much here too. But there are no doomed-to-failure traps, no Dastardly and Muttley, and - thank the Maker - no-one as annoying as Annakin Skywalker on display here to have you wanting to throw things at the screen. It's just a high-stakes, high-adrenaline race to the finish that grabs your eyeballs and tries very hard not to let you look away.

It's that grab-you-by-the-eyeballs aspect that is ultimately Redline's biggest draw, too. Seven years in the works and animated, the PR proudly boasts, through the use of "over 100,000 hand-made drawings", the movie looks like no other anime production has in years - visually, it's quite simply jaw-dropping, and that's with me watching it on a 37" TV - I can't help but wonder what the experience would have been like if I'd had the chance to see it on theatrical release. The visuals are where most of the effort in making Redline has gone, from settings through to characters (a real menagerie of races and looks), all set against gloriously-detailed backdrops. Story takes a decidedly second billing - and if there's a problem with Redline, that's where it is. Ask an anime fan (particularly one that's been around a while) what the main appeal of anime is, and they'll tell you it's the storycraft. Redline doesn't bother so much with that, settling instead for creating an audio-visual experience that is second to none. But while I can't deny that it has its appeal - and lots of it, Redline should do extremely well and deservedly so - in a lot of ways it just doesn't quite feel like anime, more like it's been pitched to excel in areas that Western audiences are perhaps more appreciative of.

So. A real experience, featuring an interesting bunch of characters in a story that doesn't really sweat too much about depth of storytelling. The first time you watch it, I guarantee it'll be with a slack jaw for at least the first 10-15 minutes or so; but that's a one-off wow, and once you start looking past that for something more, you may find it a little bit lacking. But at the very least, make the effort to see Redline at least once. It's easily worth the time.

Rating - ****

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