(Source: Kadokawa Shoten Co., Ltd.)
(Source: Kadokawa Shoten Co., Ltd.)

It’s the beginning of the 2014 Fantasia International Film Festival and the first film in my personal line-up was quite fitting. If Fantasia had a main genre, Live / Raivu (Japan) was a film that captured all the main tropes.

Naoto Tamura is a selfish and lazy young man that has no manners and lives with his mother. His mother is taken hostage and he receives a book that contains clues for a death race to save her. Along for the ride are about a dozen others chasing the same thing to save their loved ones.

Tagged as a Horror / Crime / Thriller film making its North American premiere, this is not director Noboru Iguchi’s first offering and certainly not his last. Live! is, however, more of a gore-fest off-the-wall dark comedy. Do not seek rhyme or reason for the incidental and gratuitous gore. The film often will veer quite sharply into humorous tragedy or tragic humor. If you can’t quite divorce yourself from the characters to laugh at their personal pain, this is going to be an awkward film. The healthiest choice is to take it as slapstick comedy with a lot of blood. The camera will also pan down for a cleavage or panty shot in the middle of the action without any apologies.

The plot is not erratic, but the subject changes happen fast. Tragedy or shock will still be on screen when the music suddenly heralds a tender moment between characters right in the middle of being pursuited. I did enjoy the overall execution but found myself wishing for a more continuous storyline. The movie seems to try to get us emotionally involved with these characters but at the same time use their own pain as fodder for laughs. Often enough, tender moments will be followed by violent ones causing the movie to go off the rails for quite a bit.

Only recommended as light fare. The movie seems to try to be too many things at once. It has some cute moments despite the gore and the humor at the expense of personal tragedy. Leave your mind at the door and your empathy on the coat rack. Then again, this is Fantasia. We got a coat check for those.

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(Sources: Fantasia)