Company: Madhouse Studios
Format: Movie; 101 minutes.
Date: 14 Aug 2011
Synopsis: JP is a speed demon who has dreamed of fame and fortune since childhood. A man who isn’t afraid of staring into the eyes of Death, he aims to win the Red Line, the biggest racing contest in the universe that is also regarded to be the deadliest because of its no-holds-barred nature. After losing in a qualifying contest called the Yellow Line and failing to clinch a spot in the final race, JP considers quitting his dreams for good. However, in a twist of fate, he finds out about his inclusion into the starting lineup by popularity vote after two finalists drop out. Not only that, but it turns out that the venue of Red Line is at Roboworld, a planet ruled by an ironfisted military that promises to crush the event and eliminate anyone involved in it.
Concept: A gift of homage to 70’s Western pop cultures.
Aesthetics: Almost unrivaled in caliber and artistic value; pure poetry in motion.
Characters: A rambunctious band that makes instant impact upon appearance.
Music: There is one specially composed to suit each scene.
Plot: Simplistic and pedestrian; an ending that comes a little soon.
Madhouse Studios: Emphatically reignites my fan fervor for them.
My faith in Madhouse Studios has been on a wane lately. Its latest Marvel–Madhouse project is giving me serious doubts on whether it can ever go back to the days when it was producing quality shows. Its recent string of disappointing titles resulted in an expanding wall that was shoving me away from the production studio, and I was eagerly looking forward to the day it produces something that can prevent my emotional detachment from worsening. Then, a sleek work of art by the name of Redline appears and resoundingly smashes through the wall, crushing my doubts about the studio in grand style.
Style is the name of the game in Redline and it is passionately blended into the overall theme, which is a symphonic fusion of distinctive concepts of Western influence. The movie has achieved quite the unthinkable, blending many different works and creating an absolutely balanced product instead of a complete mess. It uses the classic Speed Racer free-for-all drag race as the template theme, but it comes with several outstanding features: it possesses the same insanely empowering energy of Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann, the same classiness and attitude of Cowboy Bebop, and the same psychedelic neuroticism of FLCL. It results in an extravagant Formula One race filled with beast machines fitted with weapons of destruction and spectacular crashes as each racer dogfights towards the finishing line.
The aesthetics are in a realm of its own: the animation is amazingly fluid, the colors are sharp and vibrant, and the art is bold and meticulous down to the smallest detail, from the grittiness of scrap metal to the glowing petals of a flower in the moonlight. Watching Redline is like seeing your comic book come to life and animate right before your eyes, and one can truly sense the painstaking effort and dedication put into every cel. Better yet, accompanying the visuals is a soundtrack made up of a cocktail of sounds from various genres tailored to suit every scene, from the head-bobbing rhythm of “Yellow Line” to the serenading tunes of “Redline Day”, which features the smooth vocals of Rob Laufer.
If there’s a word to describe the characters, it’s “pizzazz”. A boisterous montage of misfits, each has a larger-than-life personality and brings to the table his own definition of flamboyance and sense of style. A number of them pay tribute to iconic personas: protagonist JP is the retro “bad boy with a golden heart” made famous by John Travolta in the 70’s; Sonoshee is the doe-eyed chick with a feisty attitude; Frisbee is the trustworthy consigliore, and the rest includes a pair of flirtatious sisters and a Clint Eastwood-inspired law enforcer. It may be a shallow cast, but in a movie that rewards style over everything else, perhaps characterization should play second fiddle to creating presence and making immediate impact upon arrival.
However, a few issues prevent the movie from perfection. The plot is very simplistic: a story about a man who seeks immortality, and eventually gets it and the woman as well. It’s hardly special, and for borrowing ideas from other similar sources, it’s quite unoriginal too. Plus, the ending is abrupt and a tad disappointing, especially when it follows an over-the-top pulsating climax. If the movie had spared just a few more minutes to wrap things up properly, it could’ve decorated the cake with nicer icing.
Although it has a mediocre narrative and a fizzled-out conclusion, Redline nevertheless is the type of movie that demands to be seen. It makes one feel like he’s witnessing something special, and its shortcomings are nothing more than a few kinks on a pimped-up blazing Ferrari with a nitro pack. It’s a show of many identities – a commemoration to pop culture of the 70’s, an extravagant hip-hop music video, and a summer action flick – and although it’s not cerebral, it has a lot of heart. For a directorial debut feature, Koike Takeshi has surpassed most expectations and there’s a lot more to be expected from the visionary. For outdoing itself and reminding me the full potential of anime as a medium, Madhouse Studios has regained my respect.
The Rating: 9
Reviewed by: AC