Tag Archives: C+

ADRENALINE DRIVE

The title of this amiably off-kilter Japanese chase flick
really fits only its second half. The first hour of the
picture, which establishes the situation, might better be
called “Dramimine Drive”–it’s quite soft-grained and
deliberate, taking its time in setting up loopy, woozy jokes
about how two nervous, nerdy kids (a rental-car driver played
by Masanobu Ando and a shy student nurse played by Hikari
Ishida) get possession of a stash of Yakuza money and plan to
divide it between them. In the second half, the film goes
from charmingly dilatory to frenetically forced, as the young
duo flee with the cash while being pursued by a gang of mob-
related thugs played by members of the comedy troupe Jovi Jova
and an injured but still potentially lethal hitman (Yutaka
Matsushige, who looks rather amusingly like a youthful Henry
Silva).

The movie has moments in both its very different portions, but
for this viewer at least, the first hour is by far the more
amusing, with the humor gradually built and better calibrated;
there are times when one is forced to giggle just at the
beautifully gauged silliness of a situation. The second hour
is certainly more energetic, but also more predictable and
obvious; the comic pursuers are mostly played like Keystone
Yakuza, but occasionally they break out into sudden, nasty
bursts of violence, and the plot contortions grow increasingly
labored. The twist ending doesn’t come off, either.

But even though the picture is tonally schizophrenic, the
cinematography rather dull and pallid, and the staging awfully
primitive in spots (especially in the cheaply-made action
sequences toward the close), it does offer moments of real
delight, provided that you’re patient and receptive enough to
let them steal up on you. Most American viewers probably
won’t be willing to give “Adrenaline Drive” the time it needs
to work its sporadic charm, but those who do will find that it
affords modest, but genuine, amusement.

BOILER ROOM

There’s an earnest, TV-movie quality about Ben Younger’s drama
concerning tele-brokers in a fly-by-night Wall Street firm
during the greed-filled 1990s. Giovanni Ribisi plays the
protagonist, Seth Davis, a driven young fellow (he’s already
set up a casino in his home!) who’s brought into the J.T.
Marlin company by old friend Greg (Nicky Katt). He puts his
considerable talents to work pushing worthless stock to
hapless customers under the tutelage of both Greg and his
more earthy competitor (Vin Diesel), while gradually coming to
realize the extent of the scam being run by higher-ups Michael
(Tom Everett Scott) and Jim (Ben Affleck). After confiding
his increasing misgivings to secretary Abby (Nia Long), he’s
eventually drawn into a SEC investigation of Marlin during
which his rigid, straightlaced father (Ron Rifkin) becomes
unhappily implicated.

Clearly Younger intends “Boiler Room” to be both a cautionary
tale about modern Wall Street shenanigans and the story of a
young man who finds redemption in a difficult moral situation;
but the result is too derivative (with numerous echoes of
“Wall Street” and “Glengarry Glen Ross”) and too obvious (the
final-act reconciliation between son and father, with the
former finally gaining the latter’s respect, is psychologically
thin) to wind up as more than marginally interesting. An
intercutting story about one of Seth’s clients, a woebegone
fellow named Harry (Taylor Nichols) whose deteriorating family
life we’re periodically shown (and whom the young broker
eventually takes pity upon), is especially weak; presumably
the character is suppposed to stand for all the hapless suckers
ruined by the firm’s underhanded practices, but he’s just too
melodramatic a contrivance to generate much sympathy.

Still, there are plusses here. Ribisi does an energetic turn
as the conflicted hero, and his interracial romance with Long
has a nicely understated quality. Diesel is powerful as the
bulldog-like Chris, and Affleck has some winning moments as
the firm’s drill sergeant; his riffs may be closely patterned
after Alec Baldwin’s cameo in “Glengarry Glen Ross,” but he
pulls them off with surprising aplomb.

Ultimately, though, “Boiler Room” has a cut-rate feel to it,
rather like the company whose workings it portrays.