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Anime Reviews: Redline
Although it's a shameless display of style over substance, Redline is a riveting, adrenaline-fueled adventure brought to life with mind-bending animation.
Production: Studio Madhouse
Film Length: 102 minutes
Air Dates: 8/14/2009
Age Rating: 13+ (mild violence, some suggestive themes, brief partial nudity)
Summary: "Sweet" JP is among the talented racers competing in the Yellowline race, but just as victory was within his grasp, a malfunction in his car sends him crashing, eliminating his chances of qualifying for the even more intense Redline race. The malfunction, it turns out, was caused by his friend and mechanic, Frisbee, as part of a rigging operation by the Mafia. However, when Redline is announced to take place on the openly-hostile planet of advanced robotic technology, Roboworld, several contestants back out at the last minute, allowing JP entrance into the race. Now, along with over a dozen other racers (including Sonoshee, the attractive female racer who snatched victory at Yellowline), JP scrambles to get his machine in working order in time for Redline--to risk both life and limb, as well as interplanetary war, for the sake of the ultimate thrill ride.
The Good: Animation unlike anything you've ever seen; absurd amounts of creativity; never takes itself too seriously
The Bad: Minimal and, ultimately, predictable plot; may cause seizures
The Ugly: What kind of sick person would name their ultimate weapon "Funky Boy"?!
Rarely does an anime leave me speechless when it's ends. This was such a time. The sport of racing is not something I've ever had much interest in, so I wasn't really eager to give Redline a try, but it only took a look at a few seconds of animation from the movie to make this film a priority. It wasn't quite what I was expecting, but I still enjoyed myself. But does that make this a good movie? Let's find out, shall we?
As I've mentioned already, the animation in Redline is nothing short of amazing. From the intense, exaggerated action of the racetrack to the calmer, more laid-back conversations inside futuristic bars and junk shops, every frame is a visual treat that simultaneously assaults and delights the eye. As a fun side note, the animation of Redline was all done by hand in the traditional manner, with the final cel count numbering over 100,000 individual frames. And when you see this movie in action, it becomes that much more incredible, considering that the animation is not only smooth but also incredibly stylized and bombastic. Not to mention, some of the things the crew needed to animate are just plain wacky.
For instance, JP has nitro boosters he slides into his car's fuel injection system, which allows the vehicle to travel at nearly supersonic speeds. The effect causes the car to look like it's being stretched, which is not only awesome to behold, but also awesome to think about. Nitro boosters to make my car super fast? Hell yeah, I'd buy those! From JP's nitro-boosted car, to Roboworld's sinister parliament and praetorian guard, to the other racers themselves, there's an incredible amount of sheer creativity and attitude at work in Redline--almost as if your high school doodles were made into a high-budget film. The different alien races are all interesting and fun to look at, and so is their architecture, with multi-armed engineers and squat blue mafioso occupying lavishly-decorated space bars and oppressive robotic fortifications. There's just no shortage of innovative designs and fun concepts, and that's where the film truly shines.
In a nutshell, Redline doesn't take itself seriously at all. It's about humans and aliens risking their lives to race on alien worlds at ludicrous speeds (although they never quite reach plaid) while the Mafia rigs the races for their profit margins. It's ridiculous, but that's why this movie works! It's a celebration of everything that makes movies fun to watch, handled with masterful direction and solid writing, setting out to do nothing more than to get the adrenaline flowing. Though, sadly, the very thing that makes Redline so much fun and work so well is the reason that it can never truly be a great film.
In the end, the story is absolutely minimal: Guy loses race, gets a chance to race bigger race, bad guys want to stop race, guy races anyway, he wins and gets the girl. Normally, I would shout SPOILERS!!! from the rooftops, but honestly, this movie makes absolutely no pretense about JP losing the big race, and is only concerned with how awesome his victory will be. The story is simple, it's predictable (even more so with my little summary above), and doesn't delve too deeply into anything at all. After all, there's people racing! Why aren't you watching?! VROOM VROOM!! To put it simply, if you're looking to stimulate your brain, this is the last thing you should be watching.
Also, you should probably never watch this film if you're prone to epileptic fits or seizures. While the animation is gorgeous and wild, the veritable orgy of colors and light and movement may be more than enough to send you into a flailing seizure-induced frenzy. If you do have a history of seizures or epilepsy, be extremely mindful of that before you decide to check out Redline. No one should ever suffer so greatly in order to watch a movie.
But despite everything I've just said, I would still highly recommend Redline to anyone looking for a good time, or even if you just love animation and want to look at a hundred-thousand pretty pictures. Sure it's predictable, and sure it's about as deep as a puddle on a street corner, but if you're looking to turn your brain off and enjoy a fun film, then there's very few titles I'd recommend more highly.
Final Score: 7 out of 10. Though Redline is nearly bereft of substance, it has more than enough style and genuinely impressive moments of animation to compensate for its shortcomings.