Dead Run was quite a change of direction for Hiroyuki Tanaka. Gone are the quirky characters, the free roaming narratives and the delightful coincidences, instead Dead Run serves relentless drama with a slice of Japanese nihilism. I still think it's a powerful and impressive film, but it does lack the visual rawness to make it work for the full 100%.
Shuji is a young kid who lives in the shadow of his more successful brother. He doesn't really mind, until he starts hanging out with a girl and a priest from a less favorable part of town. While Shuji finds comfort in their presence, his brother looks down on them and tries to break up their relationship.
The performances are solid, and the drama is gripping, though it does take a while for the film to find its footing. Visually the film hangs between more traditional dramas and their darker counterparts, but doesn't really dare to pick sides. The somewhat grim and washed out look just doesn't do Dead Run that many favors. The result is a fine Tanaka, but not one of his better films.