-By Ed Kelleher

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No one can accuse the makers of Run Lola Run with misrepresenting their film. This German comic thriller, written and directed by Tom Tykwer, is a virtually non-stop movie about a woman named Lola who does an awful lot of...well, running.

Lola (Franka Potente) is the orange-haired girlfriend of Manni (Moritz Bleibtreu), a bit of a sad sack who is involved in a car-smuggling racket. When Manni screws up the handing over of a 100,000 Deutschmarks payment that his gangster boss Ronnie (Heino Ferch) expects to pick up in 20 minutes, it looks like curtains for Manni. Desperate, he phones Lola, who has just had her motor-bike stolen. No problem. Lola will run across Berlin to the phone booth where Manni is waiting, somehow managing to rustle up 100,000 marks on the way.

It sounds like an impossible task for Lola, and, frankly, it is. But then Run Lola Run isn't overly concerned with reality. As the film unfolds-and 'unfolds' is really the word-it becomes clear that Tykwer wants to tinker with reality, a la Sliding Doors or even Groundhog Day, presenting several scenarios for moviegoers to ponder, each of them offering its own variations. In one narrative, Lola robs a bank which is run by her father (Herbert Knaup). In another narrative, Lola races into a casino and wins a fortune at the roulette table. There's even a scenario in which Manni chances upon the homeless man (Joachim Krol) who stumbled upon the bag of missing money in the first place.

The formula of Run Lola Run is pretty much non-stop action, but the familiar elements of each variation offer a diminishing appeal. True, there are some sly touches, as when Lola repeatedly passes through a solemn phalanx of nuns or when a police van does or does not crash through a plate-glass window carried dutifully across the street by a group of workers. More devilish is a recurring 'And Then' device which fast-forwards into the future of those who deliberately or accidentally thwart Lola's mission. Needless to say, their fates will not be pleasant.

Potente, considered something of a rising star in Germany, projects a kind of punky charm whenever she slows down long enough for us to notice. But there's an awful lot of footage where she's just sprinting through traffic-not exactly the most cinematic of activities. Why doesn't she hail a taxi? Come to think of it, what is she doing with Manni? Bleibtreu works at giving his character some personality, but Manni still comes off as something of a hapless whiner.

Director Tykwer made an impressive feature debut in 1993 via Deadly Maria, a chilling portrait of a pair of eccentrics who discover each other. That was an impeccably crafted film, with an approach far removed from the in-your-face stylishness favored here. If an audience exists at all for Run Lola Run, it will likely be rabid video-game buffs with a passion for re-set.

--Ed Kelleher

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