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Non-stop action fuels Ron Howard’s ‘Rush’

Click for larger imageI f anyone put slips of pa- per with different words on them into a fish bowl and ask Ron Howard to draw out one, he could make an interesting movie about it. His new film Rush is based on the true story of the 1970s Grand Prix rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda that lasted longer than the cheers from fans in the stands.

What sounded at first like a cat fight at the local race track is actually a good movie that includes drama, action, adventure, danger and even romance.

The film starts when race car driver English playboy James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) is slightly injured and shows up at a hospital where he seduces the nurse taking care of him. Guess there's no question about that ego sitting on his shoulder. However, it's soon very clear in his Formula Three race car circuit he has no fear of dying. In fact he almost longs for it.

James’ easy wins on the track and charisma as steamy with the ladies as those tires that have to be frequently changed, encounter a challenge when the Austrian perfectionist Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl) -- driving for Ferrari -- shows up.

Niki is nothing like James. He has no personality. He's driven, cantankerous, edgy, meticulous and completely focused. More than scanning the crowd to find the babes like James, he uses that time to scrutinize a game plan.

Driving for Team McLaren James loses the first six races in several countries to Niki, which causes James’ demeanor to change. Point wise they are both far ahead of any other driver, but that's not good enough for James.

The rivalry continues with some great action scenes of races and close calls as filmed by Anthony Dod Mantle
(Slumdog Millionaire). The more James acts up, the more Niki digs in and beats him.

Peter Morgan has earned a huge reputation in writing biopics (Frost Nixon, The King of Scotland, The Queen). His screenplay of Rush is rich with elements that will appeal to a wide range of audiences. While the guys tune in to the race scenes that span six years and two world-championship contests; the females have two romances to follow.

Olivia Wilde (Tron: Legacy, Butter) does a great job portraying Suzy Miller Hunt, a famous model who won James away from all the girls, but quickly found out she was a neglected trophy wife. In real life Miller had a love affair with Richard Burton.

Niki was so into his cars that romance was far from his mind. But after offering a ride to Marlene (Alexandra Maria Lara – The Reader), a stranger he met at a party, their chemistry took them down the aisle of matrimony.

Hemsworth and Brühl offer Oscar-worthy performances in this film. Hemsworth is such a cad; many women will be so focused on him they miss the plot, while other wills want to throw tomatoes for him to wake up to the real world.

Brühl is exceptional as a man so in control one feels the ice drip off his shoulders. In the scene where he has a car crash and is badly injured, everyone fears he is dead. Instead he's in and out of consciousness, nearly blinded, and has burns on his face. Brühl’s intensity of what his character went through is clearly a mirror image of a rare person who could survive this accident.

Races are nothing without the sleek fast cars and the roar of engines. I know; I raced for two years and took third place in the World Finals of the NHRA Stock car races in 1976. Every gun of the engine sends chills up the spines of drivers and spectators. Howard has missed none of the exzileratering moments in this amazing sport, as well as every movement and decision that creates the incredible fortitude of these characters.

Reel Facts


Universal Pictures

Gazette Grade:

for sexual content, nudity, language, some disturbing images and brief drug use

Who Should Go:
Fans of good acting and non-stop action

I’m not sure how Howard (Angels & Demons, Frost/Nix- on, Cinderella Man) manages to create the total package with his films, but I’m glad he does. And Rush is among them. Luckily for film fans he has many projects in development.

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