It all begins with a fender-bender. Soft-spoken car rental clerk Satoru Suzuki (Masanobu Ando) is driving down a nearly deserted road with a co-worker. His companion’s idea of fun is to cover Satoru’s eyes, which leads them to run into a luxury car carrying a none-too-forgiving yakuza (a Japanese gangster), who takes the terrified but docile driver to see his boss about reparations.
Meanwhile, trainee nurse Shizuko Sato (Hikari Ishida) is suffering through similar torture via her fellow hospital workers, who deride her for studying too much and basically being a doormat. Her only value to them is in picking up snacks and magazines at a nearby convenience store.
An explosion at the Japanese gangsters’ den brings together these two shy, extremely mild-mannered young people who, when the smoke clears, find themselves in possession of more money than they could have imagined. Defying everyone’s expectations, they hit the road to escape the surviving yakuza and his dim-witted band of flunkies.
Writer-director Shinobu Yaguchi (Down the Drain) constructs Adrenaline Drive as a deadpan screwball comedy, where the deepening relationship between the increasingly resourceful Satoru and Shizuko is contrasted with humor that borders on the wacky. What makes all this work is that the comedy grows organically from the characters’ personalities and the often bizarre alliances that develop out of necessity.
In his ode to the pleasures of nonconformity, Yaguchi creates a contemporary fable which allows the meek to actually triumph. They may not inherit the earth, but they win the opportunity to break away from the pack and follow their own road.
Serena Donadoni writes about film for the Metro Times. E-mail her at [email protected].