Thursday, March 26, 2015

Dave Boyle's sun-kissed noir, MAN FROM RENO, shows us creativity put to dire and dreadful uses

What an odd one is MAN FROM RENO, the new film from Dave Boyle, and the first of his work that TrustMovies has seen. A sort of sun-dappled neo-noir in which our heroine, Aki, a Japanese writer of an internationally famous detective novel,  comes to San Francisco and gets embroiled in the kind of mystery that, initially at least, seems like an Asian example of a Nancy Drew tale (at one point  the California sheriff who's also investigating the case, refers to Aki as exactly that). The movie begins in one of those thick Frisco fogs, during which a car hits a pedestrian, and a mystery unravels.

In Boyle's movie, we begin by tracking both Aki (Ayako Fujitani, above) and that sheriff (Pepe Serna, below, right) as they work independently on things that will eventually flow into a single case that grows more bizarre (what's in the toilet) and deadly (after awhile the bodies start piling up).

There is also one hell of a major villain to contend with -- one who proves a complete sociopath without even a hint of caring or remorse.

One of Mr. Boyle's finest achievements (the filmmaker is shown at left) here may lie in making us imagine that all this is much more fun than it is dangerous, then pulling the rug out from under both his characters and us. He plays deftly and rather charmingly with movie conventions and characterizations until, somewhat in the same manner that effects our poor Aki, we're shocked, trapped and unable -- even unwilling -- to believe what just happened. And that's all I'm willing to say about plot machinations.

The filmmaker -- who both directed and co-wrote the film (with help from regular collaborators Joel Clark and Michael Lerman) -- evidently enjoys creating stories in films that make use of both American and Japanese actors in an American setting. More power to him -- especially if those films are as interesting and unusual as this one.

The performances are, to a man and woman, low-key and believable -- which helps create the ambience necessary for the quiet shock and awe that follows. Cinematography and editing are first-rate, as well. The movie probes the uses of creativity toward ends both good and evil, and in the process tackles the subject of plagiarism, as well.

It is great to see again Mr. Cerna (above), one of our favorites from back in the 1970s and 80s, and in a leading role, this time. Ms Fujitani is smart and lovely as Aki, and a special word must be said for Kazuki Kitamura (three photos above and just below), one gorgeous hunk who proves to be a lot more, too.

Man From Reno -- a certifiable original distributed by First Pond Entertainment and running a surprisingly fleet 111 minutes -- opens tomorrow, Friday, March 27, in New York City at the Regal E-Walk theater, and in the greater Los Angeles area at Laemmle's Playhouse 7 and Royal. In the weeks to come it will hit another dozen locations, on the dates, in the cities, and at the theaters listed below:
April 3 - Torrance, CA - AMC Rolling Hills 20 
April 3 - Irvine, CA - Edwards University Town Center 6 
April 10 - San Francisco, CA - Sundance Kabuki Theatre 
April 17 - Washington D.C. - Angelika Theatre 
April 17 - Chicago, IL - Facets  
April 17 - Portland, OR - Regal Fox Tower 10 
April 24 - Honolulu, HI - The Angelika 
April 24 - San Diego, CA - Digital Gym 
April 30 - Seattle, WA - Northwest Film Forum 
May 1 - Lowell, MA - The Luna Theatre  
May 8 -  Amherst, NY - The Screening Room 
May 22 - Columbus, OH - Gateway Film Center

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