Redline Review – Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2011

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The 6th Annual Toronto After Dark Film Festival, 8 Nights of Horror, Sci-Fi, Action, and Cult Movies runs Oct 20-27, 2011 at the Toronto Underground Cinema. For complete festival info visit

Coming out of Redline I felt like I had potentially seen my ‘best of the fest’ at Toronto After Dark. I watch movies to be entertained, but ultimately I am seeking out those experiences that are unlike any other. The experiences in which I find myself looking around as the credits roll and remember, ‘right, I’m in a movie theatre’. Redline is an engrossing adrenaline rush that refuses to let up for 102 minutes.

Before Redline were a couple of interesting shorts, Paso Doble and Lost for Words. Paso Doble was a beautiful animated feature depicting a showdown between a bull and a dancer with an impossibly long red dress. Lost for Words was about a young boy who has run away from home and is now lost in a strange world, complete with bizarre creatures and single words scattered all over the ground. Both shorts were entertaining, looked great, and were nice changes of pace from the typically darker fare that the Toronto After Dark audience is already very familiar with.

Back to Redline.

The story is simple, intergalactic racing championship Redline is hottest sporting event in the galaxy. Every five years the best drivers from a variety of alien races assemble for one of the fastest and most dangerous races conceivable. There are no rules in Redline, drivers equip their rides with arsenals of weaponry in the hopes of edging out or blowing up their competition. For some reason human driver ‘Sweet JP’ drives a weaponless Trans Am, making his name quite fitting given the maniacal blood lust of the other competitors. Will JP be able to win Redline with such a glaring handicap? Maybe a few extra nitro boosts can level out the playing field.

Before even watching Redline I had a feeling that I was about to witness something special, mainly due to the two men attached to the film, writer Katsuhito Ishii and director Takeshi Koike.

Last month at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) I saw a strange film called Smuggler (Sumagurâ: Omae no mirai o erabe), which turned out to be one of the most difficult reviews I’ve had to write. Director Katsuhito Ishii put some of the strangest characters and imagery onscreen. His talent was undeniable, however, I felt like I was unable to fully appreciate Smuggler, the zaniness was a bit too much.

Much further back in time, about 16 years ago, when North Americans still referred to animation out of Japan as ‘Japanimation’, I was absolutely astounded by two VHS rentals that my high school friends and I stumbled upon, Wicked City and Ninja Scroll. These two films are classics depicting the mature content that anime is capable of, and have opened up the world of animation to countless adults and teenagers. Takeshi Koike was the lead animator on each project.

The collaboration of Katsuhito Ishii and Takeshi Koike on Redline has proved to be a hugely successful and complimentary one. The imagination of Katsuhito Ishii is evident in the bizarre cast of characters, the hilariously neurotic inhabitants of Roboworld (where the Redline race is being held), and the clever exchanges between bumbling Roboworld military officials. On the other hand, Takeshi Koike injects the film with completely over-the-top action, excitement and thrills.

The opening sequence in Redline is from a qualifying race called the Yellowline. The music is hypnotic, the fluidity of the animation is gorgeous, and the growl of the engines is deafening. When JP drops that first nitro capsule, I promise that most viewers will have grins beginning to grow, completely out of their control. I don’t even like cars, let alone racing, but Redline appealed to my inner speed junkie, who got some much needed catharsis.

Redline has easily garnered the Entertainment Maven Seal of Approval, and at that time on Saturday night it was easily my ‘best of the fest’ at Toronto After Dark (it has some competition now, more on that on a later post). I urge anyone with an interest in action or animation to go see this remarkable movie. With the DVD\Blu-ray release around the corner, it may be difficult to find a theatre playing Redline. In this case, make sure that you watch it on the biggest TV you can find, and crank the volume. This one wouldn’t be the same on a 32-inch TV, late at night while everyone is sleeping.

Congratulations to the TAD team for programming their first anime feature, and such a remarkable one at that.


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