Mark Reviews Movies

Rush (2013)

RUSH (2013)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Ron Howard

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Brühl, Alexandra Maria Lara, Olivia Wilde, Pierfrancesco Favino, Christian McKay, Stephen Mangan, David Calder, Alistair Petrie, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Colin Stinton, Natalie Dormer

MPAA Rating: R (for sexual content, nudity, language, some disturbing images and brief drug use)

Running Time: 2:03

Release Date: 9/20/13 (limited); 9/27/13 (wide)


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Review by Mark Dujsik | September 27, 2013

The overarching narrative of Rush attempts to reflect the nature of its two protagonists. They are rivals on the racetrack with completely different philosophies of life and the sport, tied together by the thing that keeps them apart—the willingness to risk their lives to fulfill their desire to be a champion in order to assuage the inner demons that possess them. As such, screenwriter Peter Morgan gives us dueling narratives that, in theory, should allow each character's story to illuminate the other's story. For the technique to work, each character must exist as his own, complete entity.

In this crucial regard, Rush falls quite short. Both of these characters are poorly defined, notable only for their extremes.

One is a reckless adrenaline junkie who can't maintain any sort of human contact for extended periods of time because he appears to grow bored with them compared to the thrill of racing. His encounters with women are short and to the point; he gets what he wants and leaves. When one woman asks what his handlers believe he should do to improve his soul and his heart (Now there's a subtle setup), he states that they believe he should settle down and get married. He proposes to her so casually that it could easily be a joke.

The other man is a slightly less careless entrepreneur who doesn't want to have any human contact because it could get in the way of his goals. Of course, there's also the fact that people don't like him much because of his severe personality. When a woman gives him ride home from a party where he simply looks through the window and realizes it's the last place he wants to be, he spends the trip criticizing the way she treats her car. He spends a good deal of the movie celibate until he meets a woman to whom he's ready to say that, if has to marry anyone, "It might as well be you."

The problem with Morgan's approach should be clear by now. Even though the men themselves may be bitter professional rivals and philosophical opposites, their stories, based on a true one, are so similar from the start that the movie quickly becomes a repetitive back-and-forth between two men who, because of the components the screenplay focuses upon, can only be defined by each other. The movie's opening narration—in which one of the drivers states that he's only known for two things (The movie guarantees that the trend will continue), one of them being the rivalry—even admits as much.

We are not observing the biographies of two people but a study of a lifestyle. Theoretically (One will have noted that, for the wealth of concept here, there's little that works in execution), that could be intriguing, but since the examination is directly tied to the characters, it is ultimately as hollow and blatantly on-the-nose as their depictions are. All of this leads to the movie's fundamental contradiction: It's an exploration of excess that is too structured to truly portray its subject.

The racers are James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth), the rapscallion, and Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl), the businessman. Both have a chip on their shoulder to prove their fathers, who wanted them to enter more practical fields of employement, wrong (During an interview, Lauda states that he would rather not get into most of the reasons for driving, which is statement that Morgan dutifully follows to our consternation). This is extent of any rationale as to why they've entered into their chosen profession.

Aside from a brief prologue that takes place before a key event in 1976, the movie follows their careers as they make their way up through the classes of formula racing. Neither can stand each other from the start after Hunt dangerously cuts off Lauda during their first race together. Lauda buys his way into Formula One and focuses on upgrading the team's car, and Hunt's team, taking a lesson from the Austrian upstart, decides to do the same for their driver.

In between the perfunctory racing sequences—of which director Ron Howard shows us very little, only summarizing the outcomes with on-screen titles—we get glimpses of Hunt and Lauda's lives, which mainly center on their conflicted relationships with their wives Suzy (Olivia Wilde) and Marlene (Alexandra Maria Lara) respectively, and the extent of their rivalry, which amounts to jealous glances and off-the-track exchanges of insults.

Then, at the height of their contention, something truly horrifying happens as one of the competitors must directly confront what has only been a looming threat. It's a turning point not only for the characters but also for the movie, which finally gives the characters some variation—in one, a sense of genuine nobility in the face of adversity, and in the other, the capacity to respect someone other than himself.

It's admirable but, again, only in concept. By the time it approaches some genuine emotional connection to these characters, Rush, which has spent so much time keeping them confined to a certain arrangement, has little idea how to handle the newfound complexity except to telegraph its most basic points in the most general way possible.

Copyright © 2013 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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