Adrenaline Drive (1999)
By coincidence I rented Adrenaline Drive the day after I watched Waterboys, but until I went to add review to IMDB I had no idea they were by the same director! I had heard quite a bit of negative criticism of the movie, but this seems to be from people who were misled by the title into expecting some kind of high octane action movie, which it certainly is not. It is actually a very nice quirky character-driven (romantic) comedy.
Shy car rental worker Masanobu Ando and even more shy nurse Hikari Ishida find their lives suddenly brought together when they find themselves in possession of a case full of Yakuza money, and go on the run together. Love blossoms on the road, and the two learn to take more of a front seat role in life.
The story is not a particularly original one, but with a movie like this it's all about the details - and the development of the plot, dialogue and situations are all very well thought out and original. It never feels tired or worryingly cliched.
Adrenaline Drive is built on the kind of solid foundations that the best movies always stand on - a cast of well developed characters, each with distinct personalities and quirks and enough screen time to let you get to know them. The two leads get most of the screen time and are therefore the core of the movie, and thankfully Masanobu Ando and Hikari Ishida play them perfectly. They seem totally natural in the roles. The smaller roles are all equally well filled too - the all round brilliance of the acting suggests that director Shinobu Yaguchi had a strong influence on the mostly young cast, and knew exactly what he was doing.
There is a certain amount of excitement in the young couple's adventures, but nothing that warrants the application of the word "Adrenaline". There's a little bit of romance, a little bit of pathos and a lot of effective comedy, but only one or two scenes that are likely to raise the blood pressure noticably. The movie is very pleasant and agreeable to watch.
The closest movie I can think of to compare with Adrenaline Drive is another Japanese comedy, Space Travellers. Both have a warm hearted nature and characters nobody could fail to love (even the bad guys), and both handle the development of a familiar situation in innovative and enjoyable ways. Adrenaline Drive perhaps has a slight edge, being masterfully put together at every turn. I find it hard to imagine anybody failing to enjoy the movie as long as their expectations are in the right genre, in fact.