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September 26 2013


▶ _Rush_ - Official Trailer (2013) - Chris Hemsworth Racing Movie - YouTube [240p]

(3GP, 3.06 MB)
PLOT: The real-life rivalry between Formula One racers Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) and James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth), from their early days on the F3 circuit to the peak of their fame in the 1976 racing season.

REVIEW: It's ironic that after a couple of stale years, the movie that rockets Ron Howard back to the heights of his directorial prowess is a car movie. Those who've followed his career know that Howard's first film as a director was the Roger Corman car chase movie GRAND THEFT AUTO, so in a way this brings him full circle. Obviously the two movies are wildly different, the former being a b-movie drive in flick, while RUSH is an A-list biopic/Oscar hopeful. Other than cars, what they have in common is that they're both the work of a passionate filmmaker, who seems to be relishing his material, which is something I haven't felt from a Ron Howard movie in a while now.

It helps that the James Hunt/Niki Lauda rivalry is pretty intense, and while the high-pedigree script by Peter Morgan (FROST/NIXON) is clever and classy, it never has to rely on exaggeration. Their rivalry was exciting enough. James Hunt is a pretty charismatic character, being the playboy racer all of us have probably fantasized about being at some point in our lives. Chris Hemsworth is a natural for the part, effortlessly establishing Hunt's insane charisma right from the (great) introduction where he marches into an ER, bruised and bloody, and is able to seduce the sexy nurse on duty (Natalie Dormer) so fast that she has sex with him before stitching him up. Hunt seems like a fun role, and Hemsworth is ideally cast.

As good as he is- and I'd wager he's great- I think Daniel Bruhl steals the show as Lauda. The other day, in my FIFTH ESTATE review, I wrote that Bruhl came off as bland in a fairy uninteresting role. Here, he's arguably got the best part in the film, and he absolutely owns the movie every second he's on screen. Lauda is a less-showy part than Hunt, with him quieter, and more introspective. But, if you know Lauda's story, you'll know that something happens here that changes his perspective on the sport, and makes him into the F1 icon he is to this day. It's a brilliant part for Bruhl, and I'd be he's now a serious contender for a best supporting actor nomination at the Oscars (although it could be argued he's more of a lead).

Next to Hemsworth and Bruhl, the rest of the parts are fairly small, with Olivia Wilde having a memorable, if small part as Hunt's model wife Suzy. However, Alexandra Maria Lara (from CONTROL) has a great part as Lauda's love interest, bringing a warmth to a film that might otherwise have been overwhelmed by the rivalry and the racing. She's a good counterpoint to the two guys.

A lot of credit is due Howard as well, who's managed to turn a movie that could have had an audience that would be limited to F1 devotees, and makes it a pretty universal underdog story. It's also loaded with testosterone, and zips along at a fever pitch. It apparently runs just over two hours but to me it went by lightening fast. The race scenes are superb and even if you're like me and know virtually nothing about the sport, you'll be on the edge of your seat chewing on your fingernails like I was. The propulsive score by Howard regular Hans Zimmer helps.

I'm really thrilled that RUSH ended up being such a strong return to form for Howard, who's a guy you really can't help but like, even when his movies don't deliver. This is probably one of his five best films, and yet another awesome TIFF title.
Sep 27

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PLOT: The 1970’s rivalry of James Hunt and Niki Lauda – two Formula One racing competitors – is explored in the exciting new film from Ron Howard.

REVIEW: Judging from the poster of the new Ron Howard movie RUSH you may suspect that it is all about Chris Hemsworth and his handsome mug. Of course looks can be deceiving as this racing drama is about not one, but two very intriguing Formula One rivals played by Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl. The two actors make for incredible sparring partners, each one fighting to be the world champion. Of the two however it is Brühl who gives the more complex and moving performance. His blonde-haired, good-looking enemy might be far more colorful and exciting, yet there is something about rooting for the underdog.

The story revolves around the 1970’s Formula One champions James Hunt (Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Brühl) who were bitter rivals. It follows their intense competitive spirit as they fight to be number one. While Hunt cavorts and enjoys the wild life, as well a rocky marriage to Suzy Miller (Olivia Wilde), Lauda plots every course and calculates each move he makes. It is an interesting dynamic, especially since there is no clear hero in the proceedings. Even when a terrible accident strikes leaving one of the players badly burned, that edge between the two is never lost.

There is something thrilling about a great racing flick. The revved up engines and the sheer power of the sport is one of awe and fear. Director Ron Howard manages to present the thrill of it all while still creating a worthy drama between the two men. The many shots of tires speeding along the pavement or the explosive terror when the cars smash against each other are deftly handled by the director. My only minor complaint is that he sometimes gets a little too visually creative which at times takes focus away from what is an already exhilarating subject. To an extent, Howard is at his best when he is off the track. Even still, the racing sequences are great.

As far as the performances go, you can’t do much better than Hemsworth. He is a major movie star that can act. The beauty of his turn as Hunt is that he is given the opportunity to play that racing sensation in all its glory. He is clearly relishing this vibrant real life figure and it works. And then there is Brühl. I’ve been a fan of this Spanish born, German speaking actor for a very long time. From his work in GOOD BYE LENIN! and THE EDUKATORS to his terrific performance in INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, it is not at all surprising that he is phenomenal here. With this as well as the upcoming THE FIFTH ESTATE, this may be the year that he really becomes a major star here in the States.

The screenplay by Peter Morgan (FROST/NIXON, THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND) smartly examines the fierce battle with a fresh perspective. Occasionally it falls into the minor bouts of sports movie cliché yet it manipulates the audience in an engaging way. The challenge of showcasing both characters evenly throughout the course of the film is commendable. It is near impossible to decide who to root for as both Hunt and Lauda are not just the antagonist and the protagonist… They are each a little bit of both. While personally I could relate to Brühl’s more tightly wound take on Lauda, every so often you’d find that Hunt seemed the better man. Credit should be given to Morgan as well as the two talented actors involved for making it work.

RUSH is one hell of a biopic. With both of the lead actors giving terrific performances, you may find it difficult to decide who to cheer for as they reach the finish line. If you don’t know the history it makes it all the better, even if it is occasionally predictable. The score by Hans Zimmer is perfectly suited with Howard’s style. And of course, Howard maneuvers through the material taking every advantage of the sleek and sexy decade while still offering the intense thrill of the race. RUSH is exactly that, it is a super-charged RUSH of a biopic that will thrill audiences whether they are familiar with James Hunt and Niki Lauda or not.



There comes a time in every critic's life when you find yourself going against the tide of opinion, set adrift by your inability to appreciate something everyone else is gaga for. It is a very different feeling than liking something everyone else despises. But as I gaze upon the 90% positive or so rating on Rotten Tomatoes, all I can do is take a deep breath and say, "My name is Susan and I am a 'Rush' disliker."

Not a hater, mind you. No movie featuring either one of those musclebound Aussie skyscrapers known as the Hemsworth brothers (this one has Chris, a.k.a. Thor, not Liam a.k.a Miley Cyrus' ex) can be all bad. I do admire a good car chase, whether in “Smokey and the Bandit” or in the original “The Fast and the Furious," and my double-digit viewings of “Slap Shot” and “North Dallas Forty” attest to my fascination with sports films—but only if the off-field play between characters is as compelling as the contest on the field. In the case of "Rush" it was immediately apparent that there was a slick formulaic surface clinging to this cinematic road trip. And for me, that was a turnoff. 

"Rush" is based on the true story of Formula One adversaries James Hunt, a swaggering rock-star-bad-boy Brit, and Niki Lauda, a tersely pragmatic Austrian with zero social skills and an itchy middle finger, as they vied for the 1976 world championship title. If you know anything about these two not-quite-gentlemen, it's that one them will be sorely tested when tragedy strikes at speeds close to 200 mph. Much praise already has been heaped upon director Ron Howard—no stranger to car-themed movies as both a filmmaker ("Grand Theft Auto" ) and an actor ("American Graffiti")—for striving to capture the visceral thrill of the sport.

But I found "Rush" to suffer the same problem as most race-track movies, even if measures have been taken to give the audience a behind-the wheel point-of-view. As physically intense as racing might be, cinematically it's tough to portray as anything but repetitious. What's onscreen is a bunch of helmeted drivers in cramped vehicles chasing each other in circles with a few hairpin turns tossed in until the finish line looms—and, unlike real life, the results have already been determined.

I might have tolerated the film much more with the sound off. With the volume on, this movie feels like a mucho-macho Saturday morning cartoon—specifically Bugs Bunny toying with his eternal pursuer, Elmer Fudd. The action is fueled by a lot of pre-race trash talk, plenty of disparaging press-conference interviews and on-camera braggadocio, much plotting to maximize speed and outmaneuver the competition, tons of commentary during the actual races, followed by get-your-motor-running vroom-vroom on the track. (One of most overused pump-'em-up '60s hits ever, "Gimme Some Lovin'", is pressed into service once more.)

Although this arena is far more glamorous and unrehearsed, I found Hunt and Lauda's pre-race confrontations as annoying as the over-the-top interplay that precedes pro wrestling matches—and only half as clever as Bugs and Elmer's repartee.

"Rush" is not so much a bromance as a foe-mance with rivals who are completed—and in this case, literally driven to succeed—by their polar opposites. While Hemsworth as Hunt and Daniel Brühl as Lauda are perfectly believable as their characters, I found it hard to root for either one—although Brühl's charisma-impaired Lauda is closest to being a sympathetic Salieri-like underdog. Howard and writer Peter Morgan eventually show how these bitter adversaries form a bond of mutual respect that can only be achieved when you both put your lives on the line to do what you love. But this moment arrives too late to break up a wearying pattern of bragging, bashing and crashing.

The film earns its "R" rating from Hunt's constant womanizing (his personal motto: "Sex: Breakfast of Champions") and scowling Lauda's propensity for using the F-word. Another contributing factor: the threat of violence lurking around every corner. The danger inherent in a sport that requires recklessness in order to win is flagged early and often, and Howard is not shy about showing the damage to flesh and metal. As Hunt says about his car, "It's just a little coffin, really, surrounded by high-octane fuel all around—for all intents and purposes, it's a bomb on wheels."

"Rush" takes an especially wrong turn at the corner of love and marriage. Olivia Wilde certainly looks the part of runway siren Suzy Miller who inspired Hunt to wed on a whim, but adds little but eye candy. The fact that she soon runs off with actor Richard Burton is about as interesting as she gets. Faring worse is Alexandra Maria Lara as Lauda's first wife, Marlene Knaus, who mostly stands around silently and looks concerned, like one of the lesser nuns in "The Sound of Music." How do you solve a problem like Niki?

At least one scene did capture and hold my attention: when Knaus's car breaks down with Lauda driving and leaves the pair stranded on the quiet road in the Italian countryside, they each attempt to hitch a ride, and the outcome provides a clever twist on a similar scene performed by Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable in 1934's "It Happened One Night."

Other journalists who caught "Rush" in the same circumstances I did—at a Toronto International Film Festival screening—are seriously listing it as a possible best-picture Oscar candidate, and I suppose it could make the cut, depending on how it does at the box office. But to me, this celebration of male cockiness in vehicular form is a much lesser accomplishment than Howard and screenwriter Morgan's previous collaboration, "Frost/Nixon", which also revolved around a contest between formidable adversaries: a dour, disgraced politician, and a flashy media type who was widely perceived as a lightweight. The clash between very different men engaged in battles of the verbal kind produced a different kind of rush: one of the mind. 
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