'Rush' Gets Points For Style, Doesn't Win Our Hearts

Sep 23, 2013
Originally published on September 23, 2013 10:35 am



Formula One racing is having its moment on American movie screens. The documentary "Senna" was a hit a few years back, and now "Rush" is in theaters. Los Angeles Times and MORNING EDITION film critic Kenneth Turan has this review.

KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: The elegant cars of Formula One racing are thoroughbreds. But "Rush," the new film set in that world, is more of a hybrid. It attempts to combine Hollywood style with an independent film sensibility with mixed results. The Hollywood style comes from director Ron Howard. He brings his usual glossy professionalism to this real-life rivalry between Austria's Niki Lauda, played by Daniel Bruhl, and Britain's James Hunt, played by Chris Hemsworth. These drivers hate each other from the first moment they meet.


DANIEL BRUHL: (as Niki Lauda) It was my line. I had that corner.

CHRIS HEMSWORTH: (as James Hunt) What, do you mean the one that you spun out of and finished facing the other way? I think that corner had you.

BRUHL: (as Niki Lauda) (unintelligible) What if I hadn't braked? We'd have crashed.

HEMSWORTH: (as James Hunt) We didn't, did we? Thanks to your impeccable survival instincts.

TURAN: The problem between these two isn't just that both men are obsessively driven to win the racing title. It's that they view life so completely differently that they can't help but get on each other's nerves. The charismatic James Hunt has as much raw talent as any driver of his generation, but he's hot-headed and averse to discipline. Lauda, by contrast, is a superb technician with zero gift for people and a tendency to insult folks without even trying. "Rush" centers on the most famous race between these two, the 1976 German Grand Prix, but also takes time to show us their personal lives, like the unorthodox way Lauda courted his wife, played by Alexandra Maria Lara.


ALEXANDRA MARIA LARA: (as Marlene Lauda) Well, you know, Formula One drivers, they have long hair and are sexy, and their shirts are open to here.

BRUHL: (as Niki Lauda) Thank you.

LARA: (as Marlene Lauda) Yes. Anyway, look at the way he's driving, like an old man.

BRUHL: (as Niki Lauda) Right now, it's zero incentive for reward. Why would I drive fast?

LARA: (as Marlene Lauda) Because I'm asking you to.

TURAN: In a satisfying scene, Ron Howard, bringing his mass-market abilities to this adult subject. But his polished approach is not ideally suited to the edginess that this story cries out for. While "Rush" gets points for style, it doesn't win our hearts.


INSKEEP: Kenneth Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and the Los Angeles Times. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.