MAN FROM RENO – A Review by John Strange

By: John ’Doc’ Strange
Directed by: Dave Boyle
Cast: Ayako Fujitani, Pepe Serna, Kazuki Kitamura
MPAA Rating: NR
Selig Rating: FULL PRICE
Runtime: 111 Min.
In a small town south of San Francisco, Sheriff Paul Del Moral (Pepe Serna) comes across an abandoned car on a fog-bound road.  He checks out the car, finding no one and no obvious clues to explain why the car was abandoned.  The sheriff tries to raise the station on the radio as he is pulling away but the call is interrupted when a body crashes into his windshield.  The sheriff takes the injured young Japanese man to the local hospital.  This mystery man leaves the hospital before his identity can be confirmed.
As he investigates the young man, the story cuts to Aki Akahori (Ayako Fujitani), a Japanese mystery writer arriving in San Francisco after deciding to escape from the publicity junket for her latest “Inspector Takabe” novel.  Restless, she goes to the hotel bar to get a drink to help her relax.  In the bar, a man (Kazuki Kitamura) comes on to her.  The two get to know each other and become involved.
Mystery is Aki’s passion as well as her living.  This man arouses passion in her and then disappears.  In her pursuit of the truth behind the man, she meets the sheriff and the two are soon working, if not together, then in conjunction to find out more about this man.  Why is he missing and why are there bad guys suddenly coming after her?
The story runs up and down the hills of San Francisco and surrounding area as the two investigate, following the clues.  From the beautiful old fashioned hotel Aki stays in to the prison, the locations are real places, not soundstages on a movie studio lot.  This gives the film a strong grounding in reality that comes across the screen to us,
The choices made in casting were first rate.  Pepe Serna, a Texas native, has performed in more than 100 feature films and over 300 television shows.  Japan’s Ayako Fujitani has appeared in 14 feature films.  She also directed and appeared in a short she wrote.  Speaking of writing, she has published two novellas (one she co-adapted into a film) as well as contributing essays and short stories to various publications.  Kazuki Kitamura has appeared in over 100 films and television series including both parts of Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill saga (he played Boss Koji, leader of the Crazy 88).
Dave Boyle and his fellow writers (his frequent writing partner, Joel Clark, and Michael Lerman) have given us a convoluted mystery rich in surprises and intrigue worthy of some of the best authors in the business.  They give us characters that are unbelievably well-built and a storyline that had me guessing from the outset.
Dave Boyle and his producing team used Kickstarter to raise the funds they needed to finish this film, allowing them to take it to a higher level and hit the film festival circuit.  I was blown away by this film!  It is one you should definitely put on your “must watch” list! 
(Note:  Information on the cast came from IMDb and Wikipedia.)
The Selig Rating Scale:
FULL PRICE – Excellent movie, well worth the price
MATINEE – Good movie
DOLLAR – OK movie
CABLE – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
FREEBIE – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn't paid for it.
COMMERCIAL TV – Commercials and cutting to the allotted time will not hurt this one.
FORGET IT! – Bad. If you see this one, do yourself a favor and keep it to yourself.
GET YOUR TORCHES – BAD! – Burn the script, the writer, the director and maybe even the actors!
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