Austin reviews Ron Howard’s racing flick, RUSH!!!!

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Ron Howard’s filmography is certainly interesting to look at.  He’s tackled just about every type of movie.  What I find most fascinating about him as a filmmaker is his ability to try new styles for each film he makes.  Some of his films are more successful than others, but he rarely makes a terrible one (that would be THE GRINCH WHO STOLE CHRISTMAS for me, yuck!).  My favorites of his are SPLASH, PARENTHOOD, BACKDRAFT, THE PAPER, RANSOM, A BEAUTIFUL MIND, THE MISSING, FROST/NIXON, and my personal favorite, WILLOW.  Even his slighter movies are entertaining, like EDTV and NIGHT SHIFT.  So I’m always curious to see what he’s up to next.

His latest is a true account of the rival between 2 Formula One racers in the 70’s.  British racer James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) is a charming ladies man, who likes the spotlight.  Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) is the exact opposite.  He is a socially awkward and rudely blunt individual.  He wasn’t good enough to make the circuit on his skill alone, so he bought his way in.  But his determination to win exceeded most other racers.  Also, Lauda was an expert car designer, which helped make his cars superior to others.  This film spans from 1970-1976, as it shows the 2 racers facing incredible odds and making enormous sacrifices in order to win the big prize.  These guys were at war with each other!

My problem with a lot of movies that span several years is that the characters aren’t developed that well.  Things get overlooked when you have too many years to cover.  And this film is no exception.  The film does a decent job introducing us to the 2 main characters.  Their personalities are established right off the bat.  But things in their lives are merely glossed over.  The worst one being Hunt’s marriage.  He meets a girl (Olivia Wilde), and asks her to get married after a minute and half.  So they get married in the next scene.  Then within 20 minutes, they’re divorced.  She’s quickly forgotten about, until they show her watching the final race on TV.  There was really no purpose of having this in the film.  Sure, it may be historically accurate, but it really didn’t add anything to the story or help you understand Hunt as a person.  And the movie is filled with problems like this.

Before I go to the film’s biggest problem, I should mention that the racing sequences are well crafted.  A lot of time and effort went in to make these races as accurate as possible.  To film these sequences must have taking lots of planning.  Howard has come up with some creative shots to make the racing exhilarating, like extreme close-ups of the racers’ faces, car mounts, and helmet cams.  All of these shots edited together really bring some excitement to the racing scenes.  Also, the 70’s time period is effectively created and the soundtrack is full of classic tunes from the era.

But all of this fancy filmmaking means nothing if you don’t care for the characters.  Unfortunately, RUSH features 2 of the most unlikable characters I’ve ever seen in a sports movie.  These guys are fucking assholes!  Lauda is probably the more unlikable prick.  He is rude, and only thinks of himself.  He also has a giant ego, and even plays dirty!  For example, after Hunt wins a race, Lauda gets so upset that he informs the racing commission that Hunt’s car isn’t regulation so he’ll get disqualified, which makes Lauda win the race.  What a dickhead!  And the way he treats his wife indifferently doesn’t help things.  He does get seriously injured, but I felt no sympathy for him.  I think we were supposed to feel inspired when he ends up racing again after his injury, but I only get inspired by nice people, not jerks!  And James Hunt is really no better.  Sure, he’s way more charming than Lauda, but his ego is just as big and he’s a drunk and a womanizer.  That shit don’t fly with me.  So in the end, I didn’t care who was winning these races.  It’d be one thing if you weren’t supposed to care for these characters, but Hans Zimmer’s manipulating score was desperately trying to get the audience to cheer.  That didn’t work on me.

Chris Hemsworth probably gives the best performance in the film.  He certainly has the charm, and is definitely successful at making him an egotistical prick.  The problem isn’t in his acting, it’s the writing that makes him a douche.  Daniel Bruhl is getting some acclaim for his performance as  Lauda, but I found him a bit stiff and mechanical.  Maybe that was intentional, but I found his performance a bit awkward to be honest.  Olivia Wilde is fine but she is literally given nothing to do.  In fact, no one else in the film is really given anything to do.  It’s just these 2 pricks trying to one-up each other.  I was getting so tired of these characters by the halfway point, that I was hoping another racer who was actually likable would show up so I had someone to cheer for.

Like I mentioned before, Howard does a pretty good job directing here.  He certainly makes things visually interesting and exciting.  The movie is full of energy and the pacing is fast.  I am not a racing fan, but I found those scenes exciting.  The films also doesn’t hold back on the dangers of racing, as we actually see what happens during some crashes (like decapitations!).  So the problem isn’t necessarily Howard’s direction.  It’s fine.  It’s the script.  I just did not care for these 2 asshole racers.  They care only about themselves.  They wouldn’t spit on you if you were on fire, so why should I give two shits about these dudes.

RUSH has some well crafted racing sequences, but the two lead characters are a pair of the biggest jerk faces I have seen on the big screen in some time.  Good direction doesn’t mean anything when you couldn’t care less about its unlikable, egotistical characters.  Maybe if I was actually a racing fan, I might have liked it more?   Nah, probably not.  Those guys were still assholes!   ★★ (out of ★★★★)

– Rated R for sexual content, nudity, language, some disturbing images and brief drug use.

– Running time: 2hrs 2min.



Categories: Austin Kennedy, Reviews

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

10 replies

  1. what a stupid review… of COURSE you don’t have to “care” about jerks in movies for them to be good, you just have to enjoy watching them. Good example? Alex DeLarge. Oh, that movie sucked because the main character is a jerk… right? No.

    • I sort of touch on it in my review. No, a movie doesn’t have to have likable characters to be good. However, if the movie WANTS you to root for them, then that can be a problem. Listen to Hans Zimmer’s score and tell me that the filmmakers don’t want you to cheer them on. Sorry, I just tuned out. It wasn’t my thing. Sorry that I got you upset. Just my opinion. Thanks for reading. 🙂

  2. Firstly – It is Lauda, not Louda – (read the poster) – One time is a typo, 5 times is poor writing – Grade 9 general level C- stuff

    This is not a critique as such, it is a personal opinion. A critique should somehow have a basis for the opinion.

    Character likability may give one warm and fuzzies, but is that reality?? Some people ARE assholes. Should writers modify character traits simply to make the viewer fell better?? Especially in a biographical/Historical flick?

    I don’t entirely disagree with your characterization here – just the reasoning for your conclusions… You apparently have better skills at missing the point – Which is the excessiveness of the rivalry and the surrounding culture of the sport in the era (just to start).

    I DO agree that fast-moving timelines can sometimes be annoying – especially with character development. One could argue, however, that with shallow characters that problem is mitigated. And since we can both agree the characters ARE shallow, it seems that there is no real issue.

    I could see a 3 out of 4 easily, but a 2 out of 4 means you actually spent the whole movie in the bathroom, or you are just being contrarian to compete with your opinion of the characters themselves…

    Perhaps the TeleTubbies are more likeable and better suited to your advanced skills…

    Cheers

    • Thanks for telling me about my typos, they have been fixed. I’m not perfect, I apologize. And, yes, I do think the Teletubbies are more likable. Hell yeah, I do! 🙂

  3. Breaking Bad is about an unlikeable character, did you not like that show? Walt the main character is a scumbag does that making the writing poor? Is Bryan Cranston a crappy actor because his character is despicable person? You liked Chris Hemsworth acting better because he was playing a more likable character, that makes his performance better? James Hunt was a brash playboy and Niki was cold and is a cold person. This was portrayed in both of the performances this is called acting!

    Senna is considered one of the greatest racing of all time, he often was not a pleasant guy he was a champion. It seemed many people went to watch him race and also many people went to see the documentary about his life. Was Mike Tyson a lovable guy? Many people seem to be intrigue by his story. If a movie is made about him should the actor make Mike Tyson more likable?

    One small note also Niki Lauda was not “designing” the car he was “setting it up” they explained that in the film.

    You remind me of what Louis CK describes as the people who do nothing and then complain. It is so hard to make a film and to make one that most critics like. I’m not saying this is the best film of all time but it seems you know nothing about filmmaking, writing, and certainly after watching a film on racing you didn’t learn much.

    As they said in the great movie Billy Madison “I now feel dumber” for having read your review. I was just intrigued that only one review on Rotten Tomatoes was so poor and I could not stay away. BTW just to make it simple for you Billy Madison was not a “great” film, although I do like it!

    • I haven’t seen BREAKING BAD. I don’t watch TV shows. I am a film critic, so I have too many movies to watch, but I do respect TV shows, I just choose to watch movies.

      And I liked Chris Hemsworth better because he did a better job. I actually said in the review that Bruhl’s performance was stiff and robotic, so that’s the reason why I thought his performance wasn’t as good as Hemsworth’s. Didn’t you read?

      And that’s really funny, cause I AM a filmmaker actually. I have made 2 feature films and have written 4 screenplays, so I watch every film from a filmmaking stand point.

      I also like BILLY MADISON. It’s very funny.

      As for Mike Tyson, there is a great documentary about him that presents him as is. It isn’t trying to make a hero out of him. So I loved it. But in RUSH, to me, it felt like the filmmakers were trying to have you root for these guys (listen to Hans Zimmer’s manipulative score for proof). Just my opinion. You don’t need to be mean. Thanks for reading! 🙂

      • Certainly wasn’t trying to be mean, but maybe my point was lost. Lauda IS stiff and robotic, and Bruhl portrayed it fantastically. I actually believe they overdid they playboy thing and that was less what Hunt was about. Regardless I agree the score was a little over dramatic, and the not so subtle sex scene cut to pistons going up and down was a little over the top. I guess I was just thinking your logic of the character were off base. If you knew more about Lauda and Hunt you may have a different perspective, thats all. I have seen the Tyson doc and loved it as well. So we do have common ground Billy Madison and Tyson!

  4. They have to be assholes to succeed…only very strong willed people can be people such as them and ego is always a part of it. 2 little pricks trying to one up each other in an ultimate and insane match of competition, one you could clearly never imagine. Love the scene of Hunt beating the idiot reporters face in, real men are suppressed by the rules and ridiculous standards of “professionalism” in our society today.

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