There's an essay to be written on what happens to spiky independent directors who sell-out to dumb franchise movies, cf Ben Wheatley's MEG 2 and Neill Blomkamp (formerly of the superb DISTRICT 9 and CHAPPIE) helming this piss-poor piece of product merchandising. It's hard to see anything of Blomkamp's political satire and visual artistry in GRAN TURISMO. Instead, we get a painfully tired, cliched, nakedly commercial, underdog sports film about a sim racer turned actual real life racing driver, based on a true story.
There are many flaws with this film, and a ham-fisted script is the largest one. Second, we have a cast basically phoning it in (that's you David Harbour), or playing it one shot shy of a camp Bond villain (Orlando Bloom). But the real problem is that the racing doesn't excite. I love a bit of F1 and have watched many an autosport movie. It says a lot that you can stage scenes at some iconic tracks - not least the beast of the Nurburgring - and not set my pulse racing. I think the problem is that Blomkamp doesn't distinguish between sim and real racing. In fact, he does the opposite. He makes real racing feel like sim-racing by adding on visual trackers and taking away any real life feel for track noise and atmosphere. When I watch a racing movie, I want to feel the heat, the sound, the the tension, the stakes. I want to smell the burning rubber. This film gave me none of that.
Still, I am awarding the film two stars. One for its young lead actor Archie Madekwe who puts in an earnest and compelling central performance. And one for the comedy value of seeing real-life F1 Principal's wife and ex-Spice Girl Gerri Halliwell uttering the immortal line "these lentils are nice".
GRAN TURISMO has a running time of 134 minutes and is rated PG-13. It is on global release.