Man from Reno
Directed by Dave Boyle
A stranger in the increasingly strange city of San Francisco, Japanese crime novelist Aki is unsure of precisely what role she has to play in a real-life murder mystery involving ambiguous MacGuffins and amorphous identities. Unfolding in lonely places such as bookshops and hotel bars, Dave Boyle's moody thriller uncovers exhilarating new takes on genre conventions. Consequently, it's an alluring l'homme fatal who supplies Aki with the breadcrumb trail of clues that entices her into a labyrinthine plot of sinister dealings. In turn, the aging sheriff (veteran character actor Pepe Serna, fantastic in a rare leading role), who should rightfully be riding to her rescue, proves to be equally out of his depth. The game is afoot, the chase is exhilarating and the stakes are perilously high in this inspired neo-noir.
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★★★★ review by davidehrlich on Letterboxd
ice cold neo-noir perfection with rich undercurrents & an immigrant twist. left me shell-shocked and more than a bit uneasy... there have been more riveting detective stories, but the emotional foundation the film seeps into more than compensates. easily among the best undistributed films I've seen this year. and Ayako Fujitani, who *slays* as the lead, is... Steven Seagal's daughter!!? what a twist.
★★★★½ review by Waldo on Letterboxd
An original detective story. A bored, almost suicidal crime writer goes on a spontaneous trip from Tokyo to San Francisco. There she meets a handsome stranger, they connect then he dissapears. She's then thrown into a mystery thriller like in one of her novels. Meanwhile in a neighboring county a local sheriff is putting together a mystery of his own of an injured man he accidentally hits with his car and a body found in a pond. The script, direction and acting are the best. The ending will flat out knock you on your cushy behind! Dammit! I did not see that coming Dave Imboden! Thanks for the rec again. It's on Netflix. Just watch it.
★★★★ review by davidehrlich on Letterboxd
For years, Dave Boyle, a white Mormon from Arizona and former missionary, has been the most unlikely voice in the Asian-American filmmaking community. With the arrival of Man From Reno, which finds Boyle graduating from sweet and shambling microbudget indies to a frigid neo-noir that’s told with a master’s touch (and looks like a million bucks), he’s become one of its most essential voices, as well.
★★★½ review by Mr. DuLac on Letterboxd
Tell me how it ends.
Highly impressive crowd-funded Neo-Noir from writer/director Dave Boyle. Great characterization, intelligent dialogue and a twisting plot like some of the best noir has to offer.
This isn't just a typical noir plot in a modern setting either, it's characters and crux of the story are very unique for the genre. It involves a Japanes crime novelist on a publicity tour in San Francisco, a mysterious Japanese-American from Reno, a small town sheriff and several plot elements that can't possibly be related.
Everything is related though, and like a real noir what this story is really about isn't revealed until well into the final act. No matter how great the twisting storyline was though, it was actually the characters that I enjoyed the most, more specially the crime novelist Aki played by Ayako Fujitani and the sheriff played by Pepe Serna. Incredibly likeable and well written characters backed up by good performances.
I don't talk much about the plot because I think this is probably enjoyed more the less you know.
★★★★ review by Steve G on Letterboxd
As recommended by the lovely Wendy Wendyness.
Man From Reno seemed a fitting film to be watching today considering the heavy fog we were sat under this morning in the sprawling metropolis of Stockport, and are similarly sat under now.
That being because of its stunning opening scene which, actually, proceeds to be probably the most action packed scene of the whole film. Because this is far from a highly kinetic and all action crime thriller, but is instead a very slow-moving and borderline enigmatic mystery that would have been very unlikely to have packed them into the multiplexes had it got any semblance of a wide release. Or a release at all here in the UK.
Instead, nestled away deep in the confines of Netflix US seems to be a more fitting place for Dave Boyle's film. It's an American crime film set in San Francisco and using a mostly Japanese cast who are mostly speaking Japanese. Yet this isn't really a Japanese styled film and is instead much closer to Chinatown in its complex and offbeat Californian story.
It also has quite a marked similarity in Derrick O'Connor's character, who is quite closely styled on John Huston's Noah Cross except not quite so notably evil. Otherwise, Man From Reno is quite short on immediately notable events and it's actually quite elusive in what exactly there is about it that made it such an enjoyable watch. It was a very sleepy film, I could easily have drifted off during it and it would also have been quite fitting in a way.
Yet the story has just enough intrigue and twists about it with some decent characters who are interesting enough and not quite as cliched as you might think to keep the ball rolling. It was a delight that Pepe Serna's sheriff wasn't cut from the old cloth of being suspicious of outsiders in his jurisdiction, and Ayako Fujitani's nosy novelist wasn't prone to deliberately sticking herself in harm's way.
It all unfolds in quite a downbeat ending yet because the film is so quiet and unassuming, it's not quite the devastating impact that it might have been in something more melodramatic. I think that's pretty much the way Boyle intended it as well, going for an ambiguous final shot that wasn't entirely satisfactory but also not anything approaching a complete letdown either.
It strikes me, reading back through this review, that I've written a lot but actually said very little. Even more and less so than usual, respectively. I think Man From Reno is best left as one of those films that you can just approach out of nowhere and let its charms and nonchalance wash over you, rather than letting some lanky gawp on the internet spoil the surprise for you. It is very good, though.
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