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'Non-Stop' is a marathon chase through the streets of Tokyo

Friday, November 10, 2000

By Barry Paris, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Non-stop flights are the kind we would all prefer -- unless, of course, we're on foot. Three such flights, just inches away from each other, are the transportation mode of a scruffy trio whose existential dilemma is otherwise far from pedestrian in a breathless Japanese chase film called "Non-Stop."


RATING: Unrated but R in nature for violence

STARRING: Tomoro Taguchi, Diamond Yukai, Shinichi Tsutsumi




I pondered long and hard before picking the term "chase film" over "drama" or "comedy" because I still don't know exactly which it is. Possibly both. You decide: High-strung Yasuda (Tomorowo Taguchi) would probably have botched the bank robbery he's about to commit even if he hadn't forgotten his face mask. Since his heist is timed down to the minute, he hardly has time to run in and grab a mask at the Tokyo equivalent of a 7-Eleven, where clerk Aizawa (Diamond Yukai) catches him in the act of shoplifting and rushes out after him in hot pursuit.

Aizawa -- a washed-up rock star -- has forgotten that he owes money to a Japanese mobster named Takeda (Shinichi Tsutsumi), whom he inconveniently bumps into while chasing Yasuda through Tokyo's crowded streets. Takeda now joins the two-way race and turns it into a three-way marathon. Nobody is able to stop them, and they aren't able to stop each other. It goes on all day, throughout the night, and into the next morning -- by which time all three runners have forgotten exactly what or whom they're running to or from.

The writer-director of this affair is Sabu, not to be confused with the legendary Indian boy-actor (1924-1963) who starred in British raj films of the '30s and '40s and died -- still desperately trying to break out of that mold -- at age 39. The Sabu at hand knows how to maintain tension, reminding us in the process that a good foot-chase is infinitely more exciting than a crazy high-tech one by vehicle.

The endless running is interspersed by flashbacks that let us know heroin -- and the need to buy it -- was Aizawa's downfall in the rock biz. Takeda, meanwhile, fails to save his boss from assassination and would like to kill himself now, but for him as well as the other two, the harum-scarum chase takes precedence over the hari-kari solution.

After a while, "Non-Stop" is thematically intriguing and a crashing bore, by turns, until an incredible climax in which two dozen different organized and disorganized criminals all pull guns and knives on each other at the same time. (A well-organized gang being necessary to protect the lowlifes in this culture, the right of the Japanese people to keep and bear samurai slicing devices shall not be infringed.)

Even if I wanted to, I couldn't give away the ending. You've got to see it to believe it and to sort it out for yourself.

Drop me a line when you do, and tell me whether I was supposed to laugh or cry.

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