Cowboy Bebop: The Movie

2001, Movie, R, 116 mins


A hipster sci-fi adventure based on the hugely popular Japanese anime series, which chronicles the misadventures of a loose-knit team of futuristic bounty hunters who cruise the galaxy in their battered ship, Bebop. 2071, Alba City, Mars. A few days before Alba City's annual Halloween shindig, the perpetually cash-strapped Bebop crew gets word of a truck hijacking that sounds like an easy little gig. Three of them stay aboard the Bebop — lanky team leader Spike Spiegel (voice of Stephen Jay Blum); giggly, adolescent computer genius Edward (Melissa Fahn), who's a girl, her name notwithstanding; and grizzled ex-cop Jet Black (Beau Billingslea) — and hand off the assignment to slinky associate Faye Valentine (Wendee Lee), who's returning from a day at the racetrack. But the routine job turns out to be anything but: the hijacker blows up the trunk on a congested highway, setting loose a lethal cloud that kills everyone within miles. The authorities can't figure out what was in the tanker — chemicals, biological contaminants, toxic waste — and a huge reward is posted for the fugitive driver, whom Faye saw saunter away unscathed. Further investigation reveals that the hijacker, one Vincent Volaju (Daran Norris), belonged to a military special operations unit and supposedly died three years ago, and that the tanker was stolen from Cheerious Pharmaceuticals, which has been illegally developing deadly organic nanobots. Movies based on serialized source material inevitably lose much of the denseness that accumulates over multiple installments, so fervent fans of the original Cowboy Bebop series, which debuted in 1998 and has been running on Cartoon Network in the US, may be disappointed that the feature cuts to the chase and lets character development fall where it may. The ad-hoc bounty-hunting family is clearly bound by a long and complicated history; fans can bring their prior knowledge to bear while newcomers will easily pick up broad-stroke dynamics. And they're genuinely distinctive and interesting, right down to super-kawaii corgi Ein, who doesn't speak but clearly has a lot going on between his furry ears. Edward's chattering and restless capering is especially richly handled; what at first looks like simple comic relief takes on a frantic edge that evokes the lunatic-savant Lady Delirium of Neil Gaiman's Sandman comics. The brisk, engaging story has a strong undercurrent of BLADE RUNNER-esque, the animation is utterly gorgeous and the action is driven by a characteristically too-cool soundtrack that ranges from neo-rockabilly to world-music fusion and wah-wah pedal-heavy'70s-style instrumentals. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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