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‘Ride or Die’ Movie Review: A Japanese Road-Trip Drama

Adapted from the popular manga “Gunjō,” Netflix's “Ride or Die” is a freewheeling story of female friendship that follows its own rules

Ritika Kispotta - Sat, 17 Apr 2021 13:10:31 +0100 7603 Views
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Based on Ching Nakamura’s adult manga Gunjō, Netflix’s Ride Or Die stars Kiko Mizuhara as Rei and actor as well as musician Honami Sato as Nanae – two friends with an extremely dull relationship. After a decade of no communication, Nanae calls Rei out unexpectedly. This stirs an old infatuation in Rei, a lesbian who has been obsessed with the straight Nanae since their school days. Once they meet, Nanae removes her clothes to reveal horrific bruises all over her body which is proof of her husband’s violence. Nanae then asks Rei to murder her abusive husband, tacitly providing sex in exchange. It’s an invitation that Rei is happy to oblige.

With such a hard-boiled neo-noir concept, you wouldn't expect Ride Or Die to be a lovingly thoughtful road journey about two friends who bond and argue over their difficult backgrounds while fleeing the cops. But, after a poorly edited, Scorsese-esque opening that sees Rei pick up Nanae's salaryman spouse at a seedy bar and concludes in a brutal mid-coitus murder in Nanae's luxury condo, director Ryuichi Hiroki takes a clever, unexpected shift away from lurid pulp fiction thriller territory.

Whatever the film’s final takeaways may well be, “Ride or Die” doesn’t lead viewers towards them by any obvious route. By the time this rewardingly non-prescriptive block of pulp fiction even arrives at its flex of a title card — that drops at the tip of 28-minute introduction that pings against everything from “The delivery boy invariably Rings Twice” to “Thelma & Louise” — it’s clear that Netflix’s latest Asian slow-burn isn’t adhering to the trail of any explicit narrative tradition, least of all those of the soft-hearted Yuri stories that Hiroki’s source material subverted to powerful impact.

It is a much-needed shift from the type of recent cinema that reduces each story to its ethical arithmetic and a useful refresh for the type of modern audiences who watch movies the same way. It’s a shaggy and distended portrait of a relationship that pinballs through time as freely as it does between genres, and too many of the 140-minute story’s frequent detours land up in dead ends, however, “Ride or Die” retains enough forward momentum to roll across even its least roaring chapters because of how relentlessly Hiroki refuses to keep score between the characters.

“Ride or Die” isn't an ambitious romance — it might not be a romance at all — which makes this long and winding road trip all the more worth clinging to by the end. Sato and Mizuhara’s abrasive chemistry solely grows stronger as the film moves on and also the sorrowful accord they reach as the sun rises on the final act pays off the numerous cruelties and cul-de-sacs that Hiroki drives through on the way there. The last scenes here too impeccable to spoil for the same reason they’re too fraught and confusing to elucidate, however, there’s one thing irreducibly stunning about seeing individuals discover their worth although it will only be measured in their currency.

It’s easier to acknowledge Ride or Die in notion than execution. It rambles sort of by design, with drawn-out flashbacks, go-nowhere subplots, and abundant character exploration that also doesn’t appear to be enough. It opens with surprising panache and concludes with a fizzling, banal anticlimax. At times, it offers enthralling drama, at others, it is shallow, flimsy, and indulgent, most egregiously when Rei and Nanae publicly ponder killing one another or themselves, and we don’t understand if they’re spilling their ugly honest guts or teasing morbidly or simply whining like goth teens.

Final Score – [6.3/10]
Reviewed by – Ritika Kispotta
Follow her @KispottaRitika on Twitter (https://twitter.com/KispottaRitika)



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