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Film review: Run Lola Run

Published: Tuesday, July 29 2003 11:53 a.m. MDT

Depending on your perspective, "Run Lola Run" can be seen as being either a cinematic adrenaline rush or the celluloid equivalent of a migraine headache.

In other words, it's loud, it's flashy and it really moves. But it's just one more example of filmmaking style over substance — the brisk pace and gaudy visual style only mask the fact that there's not a whole lot of story here.

Materialwise, this German fantasy-thriller — a sort-of live-action cartoon — falls somewhere between the recent films "Sliding Doors" and "Trainspotting," though it lacks the emotional tug of the former and the scuzzy "can't-turn-away-from-it" attraction of the latter.

However, "Run Lola Run" is exciting, which is enough to ensure that at least a few audience members will overlook its more glaring flaws. The movie also establishes its maker (relatively unknown screenwriter-director Tom Tykwer) as a talent to watch for in the future.

That's not meant to slight star Franka Potente, however — she shines in one of the most physically demanding movie roles outside of the martial-arts action genre. Potente stars as Lola, an orange-haired twentysomething with just 20 minutes to change her entire life.

Lola has just received word that her boyfriend, Manni (Moritz Bleibtreu), is in imminent danger — a result of his "losing" 100,000 dollars due to his shady employer. So, to help her panicky beau, Lola begins a frantic search on foot to come up with the cash.

The trek also brings Lola face-to-face with her father and several less-familiar inhabitants of the city, including bums, nuns and emergency crews, whose lives are all influenced for better or worse by their contact with Lola.

Though the film's visual ap-proach is fresh, the plot is not. What's worse, it could all be un-done by just one smart move on either Lola or Manni's part. (Why don't they just try to follow the subway train where he lost the loot?)

And at times the film feels overdirected, including some cutesy animated snippets and other scenes that don't call for the eye-popping treatment they receive. (The fate-changing fantasy element of the story is especially hard to swallow, given the movie's otherwise neo-realistic tone.)

That said, Tykwer does keep things moving at an appropriately frantic pace. In fact, the film hardly feels like it's only 81 minutes long.

Potente appears to spend at least half of that time sprinting, though she does slow down long enough to establish her character as likable — despite some of her unsavory activities. The same goes for Bleibtreu.

But the film's real star may be cinematographer Frank Griebe, whose inventive camera work is what gives it real character.

"Run Lola Run" is rated R for profanity, violence (including gunplay and a scene of vehicular violence), gore and brief partial male nudity.