Mucking with Movies: ‘Gran Turismo’ — a finish at the middle of the pack

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Mucking with Movies: ‘Gran Turismo’ — a finish at the middle of the pack

Jack Simon
Jack Simon

My childhood was spent in my room or my basement, nursing my beard full of zits, and diligently obsessing over whatever video game I had been able to convince my parents to buy for me. The “Backyard” sports series, “Call of Duty,” and “Smackdown vs. Raw,” then a half-decade break when girls suddenly became super-duper interesting, and then the open worlds of “Red Dead Redemption,” “Fallout,” and “Mafia.”

Never taking the turn into racing games, “Gran Turismo” was just not my thing, only existing in my peripheral. But if there is one thing I do love, it’s seeing a fellow nerd make it. Seeing a true story of a race-car simulation driver going on to achieve fame and fortune after hundreds of hours spent staring at a screen is an inspiration to us all. For a movie about driving souped-up cars, though, it had all the excitement of a pedestrian strolling down a sidewalk.

Mediocre generic in almost every facet; acting, script, cinematography, directing, score, editing — nothing was interesting. It was just entertaining enough to avoid being bad but never came close to even peaking above par. It has no ideas, no below-surface themes, it couldn’t build tension, nothing that would make you even think of watching it twice. A couple of interesting visual ideas are thrown out, neat ones influenced by video games, but nothing is done that hasn’t been done dozens and dozens of times before.

Whole storylines are set up and inexplicably never explored. Jann Mardenborough’s (Archie Madekwe) relationship with his brother, marketing expert Danny Moore (Orlando Bloom) — who concocted this whole idea of having a sim driver being the wheel of a real car — is never fleshed out as the scummy villain that I believe he was intended to become. Coach Jack Salter’s (David Harbour) rivalry with the coach of his old team never goes anywhere because the rival never says a word. Not a word — not a single word. The guy is featured on camera regularly throughout the film even in single close-ups but doesn’t do anything except grimace. Not even in a stoic brooding way — it was simply underdeveloped and forgotten about. He’s supposed to juxtapose grizzled veteran with a heart of gold Salter, but he does nothing. It is a single example that crystalizes how awkward, jilted, and stilted the film is.

A true test of a film comes in the second half of the second act. Minute seventy-nine is customarily where creativity goes to die. Where the bad writers shoehorn in a nude scene or a training montage or some sort of other hackery. A tragic accident occurs at a moment so obvious I don’t even feel bad about spoiling it here and now. It’s a race-car movie — of course, there’s a brutal crash scene where everybody contemplates their mortality. Nothing happens for fifteen minutes, the same note is hit over and over until the festering wound is raw and bleeding and yearning to be patched over. Once they’ve hit their climax and the characters have been pushed down their paths of change, it becomes a race to the end. But I wasn’t excited for the ending. I was excited for it to end.

It isn’t awful; however, it’s a killing time movie, and it does pass the time effectively. Brief, fleeting moments pop up where it could have become something worthwhile. A subplot where a dad has to separate himself from his gruff-intensive sports personality to understand his offbeat son certainly speaks to me, and I believe it is done well enough to speak to anyone. It led to a triumphant finale that enabled me to walk out of the theater with something to feel good about, and the older woman behind me shouted out “Yeah!” So bully for all that.

Maybe director Neill Blomkamp couldn’t get his vision across, maybe production went right and the studio didn’t like it and had it edited by fifteen different groups of focus team monkeys, or maybe a movie with this many different major brands trying to get their stuff in was always destined to fail. I wish I could advocate for every video game story adaption, I really do, but I cannot in good conscience support this movie. It’ll be good to watch for fifteen minutes when it pops up on basic cable in a couple of years.

Critic Score: 4.2/10

Jack Simon is a mogul coach and writer/director who enjoys eating food he can’t afford, traveling to places out of his budget, and creating art about skiing, eating, and traveling while broke. Check out his website to see his Jack’s Jitney travelogue series. You can email him at for inquiries of any type.

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