Run Lola Run
1998, R, 81 min. Directed by Tom Tykwer. Starring Nina Petri, Joachim Krol, Armin Rohde, Herbert Knaup, Moritz Bleibtreu, Franka Potente.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., July 23, 1999
There is a new drug hitting the streets right now and it goes by the name Run Lola Run. The rush starts the second the lights dim on this kinetic German film treat and doesn't let up until 81 minutes later when the movie is over. Run Lola Run is an exuberant and creative film game that amps things up for a run of nonstop action that tantalizes the senses and bombards the mind with an adrenaline rush of stimuli. With bursting energy, Lola offers a great run for the money. It's the movie thrill ride of the year, and it's a lot of fun while it lasts. The rush subsides, however, the minute the movie ends, and leaves the viewer with the faint aftertaste of a processed sugar high. Lola poses the question of how characters' fates might differ if events were to occur in a slightly different sequence -- a narrative conceit that has turned up recently as the premise of such films as Sliding Doors, Lovers of the Arctic Circle, Twice Upon a Yesterday, and Next Stop, Wonderland. What distinguishes Run Lola Run is Tykwer's stylistic technique: a frenetic, eclectic, elemental hybrid that tosses its bag of tricks at the screen with the merriment of an exploding piñata. The story begins as the small-time gangster Manni (Bleibtreu) calls his girlfriend Lola (Potente) from a phone booth, frantic because Lola has not met him at a pre-arranged spot and he has now lost a big bagful of money that is not his when he got distracted on the subway. Lola promises she will get him the money in the requisite 20 minutes and she slams down the receiver and begins a mad dash across town to save her doomed lover. To the incessantly propulsive sounds of a techno Eurobeat soundtrack, the infinitely watchable Lola races across the city. We watch as she goes first to her banker father for money, then continues her sprint across town. Tykwer throws in animation, a variety of passers-by, clever credit sequences, a classic stunt with workmen carrying a pane of transparent glass across a street, and the purely pleasurable sight of Lola in motion -- with her orange-red hair, blue top, green slacks, and a tattoo peeking at us from her stomach making her the visual equivalent of a primary colored wind-up toy that keeps on going. Then for variety, Tykwer repeats her dash three separate times with different variations that lead to different consequences, although the people and events she encounters are essentially the same. It's a delight to watch, but it's a filmmaking approach that would be deadly were it to be repeated by others. Tykwer brings a distinct and creative verve to the project, a style that would only suffer by imitation. Things move too swiftly in this world to leave us time to fret over such annoyances as Lola's constant running without ever breaking a sweat. By the time Dinah Washington's signature R&B tune croons over the closing credits, we're ready for its ironic sentiments and its cool-down period of sweet release.