Dave Boyle’s Man From Reno is the way I like to spend a few hours at a movie; never bored, always guessing, and enjoying characters that have some depth and complexity. It’s a refreshing change of pace. This is a bilingual drama/noir that takes some fun turns.
Watching how gorgeously San Francisco is shot, I thought of my time as a kid watching Chinatown and Foul Play. Many of the elements in the film reminded me of those pictures as well; especially the set-up, which was just like Foul Play. In that, Goldie Hawn goes on a date with a guy she just meets. He ends up dead, but leaves something with her that bad guys are after.
Aki (Ayako Fujitani) is a novelist in Japan that does a series of popular crime novels. She isn’t enjoying the tour for her latest book, and flies off to San Francisco without telling anybody. Just as many rock bands found out when their members died, that’s sometimes a great career move. Her books get more popular, and she becomes the J.D. Salinger of Japan.
Aki meets a Japanese tourist (Kazuki Kitamura from The Raid 2). They end up back at her hotel room, and despite knowing very little about him, she lets him stay in the room while she goes shopping. She’s followed by a mysterious Japanese man taking photos. When she returns, the man has gone. He left the shower running, so we wonder along with her – was he kidnapped? Why did he leave a suitcase if he left on his own? Why is there lettuce in that suitcase?
In the nearby town of San Marco, Sheriff Del Moral (great character actor Pepe Serna) is investigating a missing persons case. He approached an abandon car on a foggy night and hit the man running from it. That guy disappears from the hospital the next day.
We meet his deputy daughter (Elisha Skorman), who has much bigger plans. She’s going all the way up…to the..F-B-I (sorry, I wrote that in my best Hannibal Lecter voice). A bit more could’ve been explored with their relationship, but you won’t mind. Watching Del Moral and Aki work together is a treat. She might occasionally make bad decisions (who would let a stranger into her room when they’re already suspicious?), but not like so many other movies, where they continue to make one bad decision after another.
Early on we get a scene with Akira meeting up with old friends from college. As they’re enjoying a meal, she gets into it with an older guy she just met. He criticizes aspects of her book when realizing who she is, and the way they go at each other was a treat. Nobody threw a drink in the others face, or threw a glass against the wall. Each of them got a few good digs in, someone is called an a*****e, and they continue eating.
The cinematography is fantastic, and it makes small scenes like watching a Sheriff go into a fish store is intriguing; not to mention the hills and back alleys around San Francisco.
This is a movie where you can’t explain much of the plot without giving things away. It’s much more fun to watch it unfold.
It might not be as good as the movies you’re reminded of – The Big Sleep, Day of the Jackal, to name a few – but it’s a movie you should check out.
You won’t find it in theatres here in San Diego at this time, but you can watch it through the online services.
It gets 3 ½ stars out of 5.