A Lethal Case of Writer’s Block (Film Review: “Man From Reno”)

A noir thriller that asks more questions than it answers, Man from Reno conjures an exotic spell from start to finish.


SnapShot Plot

East meets West in this stylish and modern film noir, shot on location in San Francisco, in which two parallel mysteries collide between an older American Sheriff and a beautiful, world renowned Japanese crime novelist. International star, Ayako Fujitani plays it low-key as author, Aki Akahori, who abruptly ditches a press conference in Japan to return to her San Francisco roots, holing up in a boutique hotel, leaving her hordes of fans wondering her whereabouts. At the same time, on a densely foggy night, San Marco County Sheriff Paul del Moral (in a nuanced performance by veteran character actor, Pepe Serna) discovers an abandoned car and inadvertently strikes a mysterious Asian man, sending him to the hospital. Back in the city, a seemingly chance encounter with a handsome Japanese loner involves Aki in an intricate web of mysteries she can’t solve, for all her deductive talent on the page. A corpse, a missing lover and one stolen identity later, Sheriff Paul and amateur sleuth Aki finally team up (a tad late in the story, for my taste) to make some sense of the dense and overlapping elements in the case. With each clue revealed, the story becomes stranger – even comical at times – with Aki mysteriously at the center of the tableaux, her confused yet literary imagination ignited.



Parting Shot

Director, Dave Boyle green-lighted Man From Reno largely on the success of a Kickstarter campaign, a trend we’re seeing more and more as of late. Stick around to the end credits for a sense of just how many small donations went into the making of this indie movie, and it gives grassroots a whole new meaning. With excellent actors, an evocative score and beautifully shot by cinematographer, Richard Wong, the film looks and feels quite big budget. Plus the script is so sharp yet slippery at the same time, it keeps you guessing throughout the movie about what is meant to be serious as opposed to giggly. And the mixture of Japanese and English gives the characters a linguistic authenticity of heritage, too. No surprise the film picked up the Best Narrative Feature Award at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival.

And still, Man From Reno is a hard movie to pin down, and one whose ending may prove infuriating to some. It’s been likened to The Vanishing, and for good reason (without giving too much away). By the end of the movie, I was convinced it couldn’t end like that, and scrolled straight down the credits half-expecting some surprise ending intended for those loyal moviegoers who slavishly sit through the very last credit before leaving the theatre (hey, show some respect, people!). . . only to have to resign myself to the ending I just watched. Yet the more I thought about it, I was reminded that we rarely get all the answers in life, that mysteries often remain as such, and that human beings are sly and unpredictable, no matter their native tongue.

Man From Reno is presently streaming on Netflix.

Norma’s Streaming Picks is proud to announce squatters rights on a new site for Baby Boomers, Midcentury/Modern as well as right here at home. I invite you to go there for more great content!

YouTube Trailer:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5X0d-2x0NAk

Leave a Reply