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Beautiful Dudes in Fast Cars

Chris, Standley Lake

Sometimes, a movie trailer tells you everything you need to know about a film.  When I saw the promo reel for Rush, it was jam-packed with sleek automobiles, intimations of wrecks and rivalries, and more than one shot of grown men chugging champagne from a trophy cup.  As the trailer cut away to whatever I’d been watching before, I knew I’d seen enough.  After all, what’s not to like about guys in flimsy metal boxes orbiting a racetrack at high speed?  That alone makes it worth the price of admission.

The brainchild of famed director Ron Howard, Rush depicts the real-life racing rivalry between British playboy James Hunt and his more cerebral opponent Niki Lauder.  As the film opens, Hunt is driving for a barely-sponsored team in Formula Three (which is to racing what Triple-A clubs are to professional baseball), drinking and carousing until the small hours of morning and racing on third-rate provincial tracks throughout Europe during the day; at the same time, an equally unknown Niki Lauder is rejecting his wealthy father’s overtures that he must grow up, quit racing cars and join the family business.

As you probably guessed, hijinks ensue.  And beautifully photographed hijinks at that.  One thing you have to give Ron Howard: his movies are visually sumptuous.  Usually, a reviewer will call something beautifully photographed when he can’t think of anything else to say about it, but this reviewer actually puts a lot of stock in movies being well-shot.   And why shouldn’t they be?  More cash goes into making Hollywood films than was used to bail out the financial sector.  If you can’t get something visually pleasing from all those millions, then capitalism has truly failed.

But in all seriousness (ahem), there’s actually some good acting in Rush.  Nobody who looks like Chris Hemsworth could do badly as self-centered James Hunt, radiating false confidence while ducking into the pit just before every race to throw up, sick from worry.  For my money, Daniel Brühl turned in the best performance as the brooding Niki Lauder, whose high seriousness served as the perfect counterpoint to Hunt’s devil-may-care demeanor.

Even if you’re not nostalgic for the days when cars were big and men were macho, you’ll find Rush a good afternoon’s diversion.  In fact, it may make you want to run out and buy a new car, preferably a red one, with all the whistles.   I’ll leave any additional playacting to you.

Rush.  (2013). Directed by Ron Howard, starring Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Brühl, and Olivia Wilde.  Rated R.