Non-Stop

The opening of Non-Stop, the effortlessly clever 1996 debut feature from Japanese director Sabu (a.k.a. Hiroyuki Tanaka), follows its neurotic, put-upon hero as he carefully times out a bank robbery on his digital watch, choosing just the right moment for a hold-up and well-orchestrated getaway. His planning would seem airtight were he not staked out conspicuously in the middle of the lobby, the first clue to his place in the spectrum between Woody Allen in Take The Money And Run and James Caan in Thief. But after this elaborate setup, he's never given the chance to put his scheme into action, as he leaves his disguise at home and gets caught shoplifting a surgical mask from a convenience store. Non-Stop thrives on such goofy, ironic mishaps, which exist for no other reason than to play into Sabu's elaborate narrative cartwheels. A solid entry in the Cinema Of Cool, with the customary debt to Quentin Tarantino, the film (his first of four so far) was picked up as part of The Shooting Gallery series, presumably for its resemblance to the arthouse smash Run Lola Run. Made a few years earlier, Non-Stop consists mostly of three men chasing after each other at full speed for hours, long enough for day to turn to night and back again. Feeding his screenplay through a Cuisinart, Sabu designed a maze of flashbacks and digressions built on outrageous coincidences and unlikely twists of fate. Tomoro Taguchi stars as the hapless would-be robber, who is given chase by the store clerk (Daimond Yukai), a former rock singer and heroin addict, who is in turn chased by his yakuza supplier (Shinichi Tsutsumi). As they sprint for their lives, Sabu cuts in whimsical flashback sequences to flesh out their backgrounds and connections, with the occasional dashes of fantasy thrown in for good measure. The effect is like watching a precocious child dig through a new box of toys, improvising playful little games and fictions. Judging by Sabu's critical reputation, his more recent work has grown in maturity and sophistication, but with the agreeably minor Non-Stop, he takes some audacious first steps.

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