Rush (2013) (R)

"Rush" tells the true story of two Formula One drivers: James Hunt and Niki Lauda. The entire film is dedicated to their rivalry and competition, though it's unclear exactly who we are supposed to be cheering for.
Ron Howard's newest venture takes him into territory that seems unfamiliar to him; and, much like some of the cars in "Rush", he stalls at the beginning.
For the first act of the movie, we center around James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and his playboy habits. Always ready for the next easy woman, James snorts, drinks, and sleeps his way to being a celebrity. He tells one of the women that he's with the reason for the sexual attraction to drivers. It's not the rugged good looks or the ferocious sexual, it's the fact that these men risk their lives everyday for their job—that, and they're easier to find than Alaskan crab fishers.
The movie begins in 1976, expectedly on the racetrack. We are told in voiced narration that this will be the story of rivals. Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl) is not well remembered for his racing, but for something that happened to him on the day we open the film to.
But, too bad, because now we go back to 6 years earlier and have to work our way up to that race.
James Hunt saunters into a hospital and seduces a woman with his obvious charm and lack of a shirt. This is the man whose tale is half the movie. He's a ruthless driver and a great man behind the wheel—when he's not behind the wheel...well, that's another story altogether.
Perhaps it's all a show for James, because we see that nerves eventually get to him. Before each race, in a traditional fashion, he vomits.
With his arm around the current model of woman, he makes the statement that men love women; but more than women, men love tires. It's just a stupid line from a stupid moment that doesn't mean anything. For if this were true, the movie wouldn't play out like it does.
It cements the fact that "Rush" has an incredibly weak beginning. It's dreadfully stereotypical and not that pleasant to watch.
But then, the film changes gears (I could use these car puns forever, so just let me indulge) and we shift into something else: the life of Niki Lauda.
True, he isn't missing completely for the first part of the movie; but we get the feeling that James is our hero and Niki, our villain. The first race the pair competes in seals the fact that they will be nemeses. James's cockiness and his lack of character angers the taunting and being likened to a rat doesn't help. Niki responds to the jibes with a one-finger salute. These two really don't know how to make first impressions.
I see Niki as someone who is socially awkward and blunt. He says what's on his mind, not thinking about how it will come across to someone else.
After the first thirty minutes or so, "Rush" felt staged and predictable...a glorious disaster that would mar Ron Howard's career forever. But give the film time, it picks up speed.
For as the movie raced on (is this getting to be too much?), I felt myself caring more about the characters and actually engaging in what was first thought to be an ignorant bio-drama. "Rush" is based on a true story, but lacked that feeling at first. Once it finds its footing, it does recover lost ground quite nicely.
Niki and James swear that they are both the best at their sport. Their hubris at stake, they seem to go to any lengths to ensure their superiority.
These are the two men: the cool, calculated one and the hot-headed ladies' man.
Ron Howard seems determined to present "Rush" in a race car fashion. The cinematography jumps and zooms with intensity. The sound of engines starting fills the speakers and we get many shots of the inside workings of a car.
But it's impossible to escape the fact that these film makers had no idea had to begin their movie. For everything that starts us off, disappears...mostly noticeably the narration. The voiced-over narration provided by both Hemsworth and Brühl vanishes after the first third...which is fine, because it was distracting. It's brought back at the end, but the time without it was much happier.
It's an immature script by Peter Morgan, who flounders at's odd to think that this man wrote both "Frost/Nixon" and "The Queen". Perhaps he excels at writing political bio-pics instead of sports movies.
I was ready to write this film off completely...but then came the second act.
If the first half was dire and full of cliches, the second half was just the right amount of emotional and gritty to make me care.
The last parts of the film are really fantastic.
So how does someone judge something like this? In it's good moments, it's fantastic; but in it's bad, it flails.
Race scenes are filmed with such energy that it's impossible not to feel something.
The movie is not fully developed and leaves some questions unanswered.
Though the film is action based, it's also dependent on good performances. Although I hated the character, Chris Hemsworth does a respectable job as James Hunt and the physical resemblance is pretty solid.
But Daniel Brühl steals the spotlight in every scene he's in. Niki can be a cruel and flawed man, and you get the impression that Brühl fully invested himself into the role. He ceases to be an actor and convinces the audience that he is Niki Lauda. Perhaps it's Hemsworth own big name that hurt him here...I kept thinking "It's odd that Thor would drive a car."
For what it is, "Rush" is better than I thought it would be. It caters to Howard's touch with relationships and there is a surprisingly good performance from Alexandra Maria Lara, who I had never heard of until this film.
I appreciated that "Rush" was true to language. People speak their native tongue...I like a crowd-pleasing movie that's not afraid to use a lot of subtitles.
The last notes of the movie are strong, but not good enough to make me forget the beginning.
"Rush" is good, but not great.
I did feel like driving recklessly on the way home, but resisted...and I'm proud of that.

Score: 3 out of 4 stars

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