Directed by: #RyuichiHiroki
Written by: #NamiKikikawa
Rei (Kiko Mizuhara) helps the woman she has been in love with for years escape her abusive husband and while on the run, a toxic romance blossoms between them.
Ride of Die (2021) is a LGBT romance/thriller helmed by Japanese director Ryuichi Hiroki and based on Ching Nakamura’s manga series Gunjō. The film was released on Netflix on the fifteenth April and has received very mixed reviews from fans of the manga and critics alike. Although this critic is largely unfamiliar with the source material, the movie certainly leaves a strong impression with its dark, brutal depictions of violence within the first ten minutes, as well as explicit sexual content which may not be for everyone.
Directed with a distinct visual flair, the film presents an intimate and personal slow burn love story, with engrossing camerawork comprised of beautiful cinematography by Tadashi Kuwabara and passionate performances from its dedicated leads. Well crafted sequences range from impressive Steadicam footage of Rei entering an underground club from the street all the way to a quiet bar to long takes of urban and rural Japan as the girls go on the run. The overall look of the film is stunning, with a pleasing pastel colour palette making for a relaxing, inviting watch.
The narrative is presented in a non-linear fashion for many parts of the movie with flashbacks to the schooldays of the girls tinted with a nostalgic glow, despite some dark memories being revealed for both. The film is similar to others in regards to its familiar screenplay, with the road trip elements of Thelma and Louise (1991) blended with the queer overtones of Blue is the Warmest Colour (2013), but it has its own distinct identity as well as offering an enriching screenplay.
Both performances by the leads are very strong and both share believable chemistry during their spontaneous road trip to evade the law. The writing for them is also very good as they are multifaceted characters with their own backstories and differing personalities, causing them to often clash and result in intensely emotional arguments. Although the pacing can lead to many scenes unfortunately dragging and losing the full impact the contemplative sequences may have had, this also works in the film’s favour by naturally developing the romantic relationship between the girls and their performances are strong enough to compensate for this.
Koki Moriyama’s original score is also very effective, with instances of emotional and touching piano tracks played during the film’s most uplifting, optimistic or darkest scenes. The score presents wonderful versatility and is a noteworthy highlight to the overall viewing experience.
Ride or Die is a reflective, engrossing film which is beautifully filmed and tells a deeply intimate, compelling story of two girls discovering their sexual identities and feelings for one another. Although the film does sometimes lose its highs due to the slow pacing and its explicit depictions of sex and violence may not be to everyone’s test, this passionate romance ultimately results in a rewarding viewing experience.
Ride or Die (2021) Trailer: