June 14, 2015

Run Lola Run (1998)
Grade: 76/100

Director: Tom Tykwer
Stars: Franka Potente, Moritz Bleibtreu, Herbert Knaup

What it's about. Lola (Franka Potente) is an attractive young woman with a red dye punk hairstyle. Her beloved boyfriend Manni (Moritz Bleibtreu) is a member of a drug gang. Lola lives in a modest tenement apartment, even though her father (Herbert Knaup) is a leading German banker.

Earlier that day, Lola's moped was stolen, which caused her to miss a rendezvous with Manni following a successful drug deal. Manni was left literally holding the bag, 100K in German marks, which, because it is a movie, he accidentally leaves on the subway. Manni calls Lola and tells her that the money is lost and his gangster employer will presumably murder him once he finds out.

From this key moment in time for Manni, Lola, and their imperiled relationship, we are shown three different outcomes. In each case, Lola runs down the city streets to stop Manni before he attempts to rob a supermarket to replace the money bag he has just lost. Lola's Plan A is to burst into her father's office and plead for 100K in cash. She is unaware that her dad is involved in a personal crisis of his own with a co-worker who has been sleeping with him and, apparently, a third person as well.

How others will see it. A German-language crime drama with a pulsating techno score, Run Lola Run caused quite a stir. It fared best in its native country, where it won seven trophies at the German Film Awards. But at Venice, it was nominated for the Golden Lion, and BAFTA nominated it as Best Foreign Language Film. It was ignored by the Oscars but picked up Best Foreign Film awards from various American panels.

Today at imdb.com, the movie was an impressive 150K user votes and a high user rating of 7.8 out of 10. The ratings are fairly consistent across all demographics, but women over 45 grade is slightly lower at 7.4, perhaps put off by the criminal activities of protagonists Lola and Manni.

How I felt about it. Watching this movie again, I couldn't help but notice how outlandish the plot events are. For example, Lola robs the bank, walks out the door, and is confronted with an army unit. They were informed of the robbery, obviously, but weren't told that the perpetrator was a hot young woman with orange-red hair?

All on the same day, Lola's moped is stolen, Lola's dad decides to leave his wife, Mr. Meyer has a car crash, the bank security guard has a heart attack, Manni leaves a bag full of money on subway, etc.

In all three runs, the events and outcomes are so implausible that they could only happen in a movie. And because both Lola and Manni are criminals (Lola is involved in separate armed robberies in runs #1 and #2) it is difficult to believe that they don't deserve their respective fates in those runs.

But the movie works anyway, because it fits within the premise posed at its beginning. A man throws up a soccer ball and effectively states that anything can happen within a match. The outcome is unknown. The film then poses three scenarios: all are ridiculous, but they are also outliers chosen for cinematic purposes. Other more probable outcomes, such as Lola not answering the phone because she is taking a dump, or Lola telling her whiny loser hood boyfriend that she is fed up with his criminal incompetence and he can go to hell, are omitted.

The movie presents three alternative plots, and suggests there could be plenty more. The third one is the final one because it is the single scenario that works out best for our two antiheroes, and thus gives the audience the happy ending they want. Not only does the duo survive, but they can live for years on Lola's casino winnings.

Besides Lola's glass-shattering shrieks and ability to run for miles without breaking into a sweat, we are amused by the various dramatic flash-forwards that occur to random minor characters in Lola's path. They are shown winning the lottery, finding love, becoming a religious zealot, or dying, presented in a series of momentarily shown snapshots. These are a further wink to the audience that the movie is a comedy in hiding instead of the crime thriller it purports to be.