Instead, it’s a rather drab biopic about 1970s-era Formula One jerks that compete against each other in a high-speed pissing contest that totally leaves the audience out of the argument. In capable hands, this might have been an exciting, daring look inside this world, with the competitive nature of the drivers giving the viewer an actual emotional stake in the proceedings. But director Ron Howard isn’t the most capable of hands to deliver a product like that.
Sure, Howard may be one of America’s most endearing filmmakers, but that doesn’t mean he’s a great filmmaker. It just means he’s capable of putting a story on film that people don’t have to think about or invest in.
With partner Brian Grazer, they have singlehandedly turned moviemaking into an art-by-committee platform, delivering one Oscar-baiting crowd-pleaser after another that is as flat and soulless as a Dollar Menu McDouble. Then again, the McDouble is one of the best-selling burgers in the country, so people must love them.
The action starts almost immediately as the two main protagonists — cocky English sex-god James Lord and arrogant Austrian auto-geek Niki Lauda — bump into each other and just automatically hate each for no discernible reason, but it’s a constant near-homoerotic rivalry that lasts throughout the ’70s and feels about as long. They swap insults, skulk in their helmets, take it out on their significant others and shout at their pit-crew, with no real resonance as to why this is all that important, until the very tacked-on voice-over summary at the end that will cause many a filmgoer to throw their hands up to heaven, pleading, “Why didn’t you just tell me this at the beginning?”
Chris Hemsworth, as Lord, acts exactly as if he has just walked off the set of the latest Thor flick and is taking his character with him; classically brash, overtly pelvic and exuding misplaced machismo, I’m actually surprised Lord didn’t take the time to thank Odin for his vehicular wins. On the other hand, as the studiously Teutonic Lauda, Daniel Brühl’s performance gives the film what little heart it has.
The main problem with Rush, however, isn’t Peter Morgan’s by-the-numbers script as much as it is the completely uninspired direction by Howard. In this age of charismatic nitro-boosted vehicles like the Fast and the Furious franchise, a director better know how to film racing action, and he better know how to film it right. Audiences are no longer pleased with being a passive driver; they want to be in the action, behind the wheel, burning rubber and clutching the stick-shift. Instead, Rush puts the audience in the stands, and in the cheap seats at that.
There’s no need to hurry out and see Rush. There’s actually more pulse-pounding excitement and overwrought drama in the drive to the theater than the actual movie could ever deliver.