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Ride or Die review – bloody revenge and blossoming love in shocking Japanese thriller

A young woman hits the road with the killer of her abusive husband in Ryūichi Hiroki’s adaptation of cult manga series

The prolific director Ryūichi Hiroki has carved out a niche in modern Japanese cinema with his willingness to delve into the darker sides of sexuality. Following a start in the softcore “pink” films, He has moved to the mainstream while exploring subjects such as sadomasochism. Ride or Die, a live-action adaptation of Ching Nakamura’s arresting but disquieting manga series Gunjō, fits perfectly in the director’s transgressive wheelhouse.

The moods of Ride or Die alternate between neon-lit cityscapes and sun-drenched open roads. The opening is shockingly baptised in blood: Rei (Kiko Mizuhara), a twentysomething lesbian, has slashed a man to death in his own home. It is later revealed that her victim is the abusive husband of Nanae (Honami Sato), a high-school classmate for whom Rei has held a torch for a decade. In perhaps the most destructive possible declaration of love, Rei has killed for Nanae, and together they embark on a getaway that doubles as a journey to their past. The bloodshed carries a poetic power: the life of a (bad) man is taken, only for the two women to see themselves reborn.

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