It's been often mentioned by other reviewers that the art of the cornball must have been engineered by Sylvester Stallone; it's just as often forgotten that true tripe goes unwatched merely because it does not go into wide, national release. So guess which movies always receive the worse rep?
Having watched the trailer and anticipated this movie for a while, I knew exactly what to expect beforehand: your typical good guy vs. bad guy, fight for glory, 'win-all-lose-all final confrontation' fare. Surprisingly, I encountered something that attempted to be a little more profound, and while it doesn't exactly hint at the meaning of existence, it explores a facet of human relationships which not many other movies in this genre have touched. The movie's tagline, "Welcome to the human race," does a nice job of encompassing all that this film discusses.
The peculiar thing about the entire setup is that, unlike all other movies in this genre, there are no defined lines. There is no good guy, no bad guy; simply a race for perfection that alludes to the way that most of us wish to live, though the path that we take is an altogether different matter. It's difficult to pick up on, but if enough attention is paid, the idiosyncrasies of each of the characters in this movie speak far more than what their dialogue brings to the table.
Where the film falters, and causes most of the audience to misperceive its message, is in its presentation. It's frenetic, loud, and highly distracting; and yet, tremendously appealing to this particular viewer. The speed with which the director cuts between shots, pans, zooms, spins, spirals, etc., go hand in hand with the feel of the sport in general, and is indeed very creative -- but it is hard to keep up with what's going on. How are we supposed to know what each character is feeling when the scene cuts away before the dialogue is even finished? How are we supposed to be even able to recognize what's happening on the screen when we're not given more than a two-second break between blaringly obtrusive rock songs? Once again, the movie alludes to the sport itself with the commercialization of its soundtrack. And while highly kinetic, and emotionally involving at times (the opening scene with the media was brilliantly executed for a Jimmy Bly point of view), it's just hard to...keep track of everything.
But in the end, the main reason anybody is going to watch this movie for is the racing, particularly the accidents that take place at excesses of 200 miles per hour. And it delivers pretty admirably, truth be told. There are a lot of interesting camera positions and perspectives to make you feel a part of the race, and the special effects could be considered top-notch. Kudos to whoever decided to not give the CG cars and items the cheap, laughter-inducing fluidity of movement that's to be found in just about any other movie with computer graphics (though there were a few scenes with this effect). It's not necessarily realistic, and a little simplistic on the artistic scale, but it reaches a satisfying level of subtlety--and at times, it's fascinating to see some of the things that can be done.
The film is not without its clichés, it sometimes forgets about or fails to discuss a few of its plot points, and the women appear to be portrayed a little 2-dimensionally. But when the crew is watching the race or practice runs from the movie's dramatic camera angles on their small overhead monitor, you simply don't care. The movie takes itself seriously, but it's also intended to be fun; it's merely up to the viewer to interpret how they wish to take it. The first time, it may be a little difficult to swallow, but with subsequent bites, you begin to grow accustomed and appreciate its distinct flavor.
Here's hoping that Stallone sticks to it for a while longer. I'm hungry for more.