Run Lola Run
Lola's boyfriend, Manni (Moritz Bleibtrau), looks like bad news to me: a small-time punk up to his forehead in trouble for mucking up what appears to be a dirty drug deal. His mobster boss is after him for 100,000 marks, which Manni assuredly does not have. Somehow the empty-pocketed one guilt-trips Lola (Franka Potente) and gives her a daunting mission: hey, Fräulein, get me those marks in 20 minutes, or I'm a mark. A dead man.
Instantly, loyal Lola scurries off like Sir Galahad. As the title says, Run Lola Run. And as Lola races the clock to bring Manni his money, contemporary German cinema, so wretchedly slow, so humorless, so audience-unfriendly, is opened up into a hundred-meter dash of an MTV-ish youth movie.
Filmmaker Tom Tykwer: "The story of Run Lola Run is pretty simple: you have 20 minutes to . . . run through the city to rescue your true love." The primal pleasure of this movie: a healthy body in rhythmic motion, arms and legs, breasts and butt, Lola's Raggedy Ann red hair. Actress Potente, not a conventional movie beauty, is attractive because she moves so freely. The pleasure is sensual, not sexual; anyone seeing the film, male or female, child or adult, will enjoy watching Lola bolt through the urban environs.
The other pleasure is the up-to-datedness of the filmmaking: Tykwer's zesty, bubbly techno soundtrack (he co-wrote it); the kicky mix of 35mm, video, animation sequences (a cartoon Lola whirling down a circular stairway), and fast-cut Polaroid sections; Tykwer's super-duper eye for cutting together disparate chunks of Lola racing down the pavement. My favorite visual moment: on the left side of the screen, Manni plotting a mid-day grocery-store robbery; on the right side, Lola running in profile, yelling toward his ear, "Don't do it, Manni!"
Lola's streak to save Manni is told three times in Run Lola Run, with plot variants along the way each time and, therefore, different endings. The first time Lola makes her run it's exhilarating; the second time it's mostly fun because of the story changes. On the third occasion, alas, Run Lola Run chugs and puffs and stumbles. We on the sidelines naturally expect the movie to grow into more than a footrace. To be about something. But as Lola runs and runs for that third time, you get the creepy feeling of having been bamboozled. This isn't what it should be: Rashomon on speed. Run Lola Run, all 1999 surface, turns out to be about nothing at all.
(Boston Phoenix, July 5, 1999)