Dangan Runner, aka Non-Stop, is Sabu’s directorial debut. First released back in 1996, this slightly bonkers comedy-drama effort has now been given a swanky new Blu-ray release by Third Window Films. So, let’s take a look at this new release and see if it’s worth picking up.
In its simplest form, Dangan Runner is a slightly odd, slightly quirky movie about a trio of losers running through the streets of Tokyo. There’s Yasuda (Tomorowo Taguchi), a bumbling sort who is ridiculed at every turn, whether that’s in the kitchen he works in or by the ex-girlfriend who gave him the boot. And it’s this bumbling that kickstarts our story, when his plan to rob a bank and change his fortunes goes array after he forgets to bring a mask. From there, he heads to steal a mask from a small store, only to be spotted by junkie and failed rock star turned clerk Aizawa (Diamond Yuaki). It’s with this that we’re then off to the proverbial races, as Aizawa chases Yasuda… only for a third wheel to join the action. Said third wheel is Takada (Shinichi Tsutsumi), a lower level member of the yakuza who is owed money by Aizama.
Still with us? Good. But surely Dangan Runner is about more than simply three fellas chasing after each other, right? Right. You see, as this chase plays out, we’re given flashbacks to each of these central characters’ backstories. Each of the trio are vastly different and have lived totally different lives, yet all have their crosses to bear and their problems to deal with. Even with the clear differences at the fore, however, there are certain similarities in this triumvirate’s tales, not to mention Sabu makes sure to include sprinklings of humour in each of their lives regardless of the desperate nature of each of their situations. Oh, and then there’s one of the most, err, unique sex scenes committed to film.
While the prospect of three chaps jogging from street to street might not instantly grab your attention, Dangan Runner is a frenetic and fun romp of a movie. The energy of the picture is clear for all to see, with Sabu and editor Shinji Tanaka creating a film whose true highlight is its pacing and brisk beats. The fact that Dangan Runner clocks in at just over the 80-minute mark also serves to create a brisk environment for what is a simple yet engaging premise.
In terms of bonus content, the audio commentary from Jasper Sharp is likely the standout in how it highlights Dangan Runner’s importance in the resurgence of Asian cinema in the ‘90s - something which is further backed up by Tom Mes' video essay. And for those of you who are lucky enough to pick up one of the first 1,000 copies of this release, there’s an utterly stunning collectable slipcase for the Blu-ray.
Dangan Runner is a thrillride that is nothing if not relentless, and it marked the start of what has proved to be quite the impressive career to date for Sabu.
Special Features: Audio commentary / Video essay / Interview with Sabu / Original theatrical trailer
DANGAN RUNNER / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: SABU / STARRING: TOMOROWO TAGUCHI, DIAMOND YUKAI, SHINICHI TSUTSUMI, AKAJI MARO, REN OSUGI / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW