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.