Redline is a goofy trip back to the fantasies of school boys in America in the 1970’s. The cars are all outrageous Hot Wheels, the characters are straight out of Heavy Metal magazine, and the animation is filled with hand-drawn speed morphs and disco sparkles. It’s all recycled and it looks excellent, but it ultimately falls a little flat if, like me, you’ve seen it all before.
There’s very little story, but there’s enough here for a race movie. JP is a rockabilly driver with a retro Camaro and an alien partner who keeps selling him out to the highest bidder. He’s successful, to a degree, when his partner doesn’t force him to throw the races for money. Now he’s surprisingly made it to the once-every-five-years superbowl of racing, the Redline. This year it’s to be held illegally on Roboworld which means the cyborg military will be hunting the racers and spectators down during the event. Yes, it’s all pure idiocy, unless you’re ten years old, in which case it’s nirvana.
I’m not exaggerating when I say the cars look like Hot Wheels from the seventies. They look EXACTLY like that. So much so that I expected them to run their races on orange, plastic tracks. The visual style of the movie churned my stomach a bit, to be honest, just as those creepy indie comics of the seventies often do, but I was eventually able to accept them for what they are – throwbacks. I wonder if Japanese audiences even recognize the style. Maybe they think it’s entirely new.
The ultimate problem Redline has is unrelated to its gorgeous, hand-drawn animation. It’s the lack of clarity and momentum in a bare bones, speed-driven plot. The final race is muddy up until the last run for the finish line. Through most of it, I had no idea what the course was or where the different racers were in relation to one another. That’s unforgivable in a movie like this, and it made the last act far less effective than the race in act 1.
There’s also the by-the-numbers techno soundtrack that seems slightly out of place with the Rat Fink visuals, but it doesn work well enough to convey speed and energy during the races. I just think it could have been better integrated into the whole. What if seventies disco tracks were given the full-on techno remix treatment? There’s a lot of potential for the sound design to match the visuals and it just doesn’t happen. The sound is pretty standard fare across the board. It isn’t bad, but it could have been much more interesting.
I can’t really recommend Redline unless you’re ten years old. If you are, you’ll love every frame.