Naoto Tamura isn’t a particularly likeable young man, and he probably doesn’t like you either. He’s arrogant, unemployable, bitter beyond his years and resentful towards his loving mother, with whom he lives. His callous attitude is suddenly challenged when he receives a parcel in the mail, followed by a mysterious phone call — and live video feed of his kidnapped mother, inches from death. To keep her alive, Naoto will have to follow his caller’s strange instructions, which begin with the book in the parcel (and a strict warning to avoid contact with the police). As he follows the course through town plotted out for him, Naoto suddenly discovers that a dozen other ordinary, unconnected individuals are trapped in the same terrifying situation as he is. They’re all unwilling participants in a triathlon of death, based precisely on the events in the book, racing to save the lives of someone they’re close to. And it soon becomes apparent that only one of them can come out of this the victor…
How’s this for a team-up? Working from (or rather building upon, in a highly meta manner) a book by Yusuke Yamada — the survival-contest specialist responsible for the original novels of the CHASING WORLD movies and this year’s PUZZLE — director Noboru Iguchi (ROBOGEISHA, ZOMBIE ASS, DEAD SUSHI and of course this year’s NUIGULUMAR Z) works his lowbrow, garishly tasteless, yet somehow genuinely sweet magic on the death-race genre recently elevated by the HUNGER GAMES books and movies! Iguchi’s knack for churning out loveably lurid, super-sanguinary B-movie fun is in full play here, as cruel and unusual deaths and bounteous boob shots abound. Among the desperate and likely doomed mad-dashers are several faces familiar to Fantasia regulars, including Iguchi regular Asami (star of this year’s GUN WOMAN and a heap of otaku-themed AV films), Mitsuki Koga (BUSHIDO MAN himself!) and snaggletoothed Yoshiyuki Morishita, veteran of too many off-kilter Fantasia classics to name here! Iguchi has proven himself a purveyor of salacious slay-rides with unparalleled panache (and his pal, FX maestro Yoshihiro Nishimura’s bloodbaths-on-a-budget are as absurdly inventive as ever here), but he’s clearly expanding his scope and hitting his mark in the process. Strap on your running shoes, headset and chainsaw gloves, gang — you’ll need them in the frenzied race to the best seats at Fantasia’s screening of LIVE!
— Rupert Bottenberg