Directed by Dave Boyle
Crime / Mystery / Thriller, 111′
‘Man From Reno’ centres around Aki (Fujitani), a detective crime novelist visiting LA in an attempt to escape her work. After a fellow Japanese man named Akira (Kitamura) approaches her in her hotel, the two develop a bond, until Akira disappears, leaving his suitcase in Aki’s room. Quickly, Aki finds herself caught up in the aftermath – a real-life crime mystery.
Looking back at Dave Boyle’s filmography, ‘Man From Reno’ is (fittingly) unexpected. His previous works – all of which have been received averagely, barely scraping a 6.0 on IMDb – can easily be lumped into the rom-com genre. This only adds to the commendable surprise that is the neo-noir ‘Man From Reno’.
Right from the off, the film is effortlessly tense and chilling, opening with a fantastic scene which leaves the audience grappling with multiple questions and yet reveals nothing. The promising introduction is just the edge of what is about to come, enough so that a preceding 20 minute segment which follows our to-be-heroine never lags or feels like filler exposition.
This is a film which is paced impeccably, even moments that merely set the stage are endearing and despite the lack of noticeable thriller tropes, the killer opening scene never lets you forget what you’re in for, with a sense of brooding intensity in the quieter, slower scenes.
‘Man from Reno’ executes the element of surprise flawlessly. Nothing is expected. Although clues and foreshadowing are dotted around, the film rations just how much it divulges, and gives absolutely nothing away, making it nigh on impossible to predict the outcome, all without stretching credibility.
Reno also takes advantage of the inherent cross-cultural differences of the narrative, yet to its credit not a negative way or on a scale of that in a film such as ‘Lost In Translation’. Whilst many westerners may refuse to watch an Asian film on the basis that the language and names are confusing and difficult to follow, Reno uses this perspective as a means to deepen the mystery, as the story wraps itself around mispronunciations of key words, giving us one particularly delicious and wonderful scene.
The film features an extremely wide and empathic cast of characters that follow both victim and detective through this perfectly cast story. Pepe Serna as Paul Del Moral is possibly the most likeable, and Kazuki Kitamura plays a completely unpredictable antagonist.
Ayako Fujitani is flawless as an unconventional heroine, playing a wonderfully cool and isolated character with a heartfelt backstory that becomes the strong protagonist she is intended to be without seeming forced.
And of course, it ends how all great thrillers should end, in satisfying dissatisfaction.
There is no doubt as to why ‘Man From Reno’ won Best Narrative Feature at the LA Film Festival: it is captivating and unpredictable, with an engaging plot that takes us where very few thrillers have gone before without overfeeding its audience excessive portions of action and gratuitous violence. If this is a sign of things to come, there is much to look forward to from Boyle.
Review by Lottie Jane Moran