Ride or Die
After a decade of not seeing each other, Rei (Norwegian Wood’s Kiko Mizuhara) is contacted out of the blue by her high school crush, Nanae (Honami Sato), who is stuck in an abusive relationship with her husband. Believing there’s no other escape, Nanae enlists Rei to kill him for her. Following the grizzly deed, they go on the run together. With nothing but the open road and gorgeous Japanese summer ahead of them, the pair’s complex history reignites fiery passions, transforming their journey into an erotically charged odyssey of friendship, love and identity.
There are more than a handful of similarities between director Ryuichi Hiroki’s Ride or Die (which is adapted from manga series Gunjō) and Thelma and Louise and Bound. But, unlike these 90s queer outings, Ride or Die explores its themes in a much more tender and delicate fashion. After the visceral murder that opens the film, much of what follows consists of downtime between the fugitives. They share meals together, take shelter at an empty train station, and sing along (badly) to a song on the radio that they used to know. The time they spend together is quiet and mostly uneventful, but the silence between them is filled with years of unspoken frustration that often bubbles to the surface in ferocious outbursts.
Mizuhara and Sato are phenomenal together, neither hold anything back in raw and brutal performances. It’s to the film’s detriment, though, that writer Nami Kikkawa keeps these characters at a distance from the viewer. Though their emotional struggle is laid bare, they nevertheless remain mysteries that lie just out of reach. Likewise, the non-linear structure is puzzling to decipher at first; the opening act is a jumble of flashbacks and seemingly unrelated events rammed together in a manner that muddles the emerging plot. As the pair continue their journey and more is understood about their past, these pieces do eventually start to line up. It all concludes on a sombre note that resonates with everything that they (and viewers) have experienced.
Complete with cinematography that’s as smooth as its soundtrack, Run or Die is far more than the Japanese Thelma and Louise that the trailers would have you believe. In his latest film, Hiroki paints a bittersweet and sophisticated (albeit somewhat impenetrable) portrait of love and identity.
Ride or Die is released on Netflix on 15th April 2021.
Watch the trailer for Ride or Die here: