What happened to Ron Howard? Besides producing and narrating “Arrested Development,” Howard’s directorial roles have all lacked passion and personality in the last five years, from his “Angels & Demons” to his most recent “Rush.” Even his Oscar-nominated “Frost/Nixon” lacked the spark and charm of his earlier works. “Rush” has everything Oscar-worthy films need except charisma or a lasting impression. Maybe the lack of pizzazz can be blamed on writer Peter Morgan (both “Frost/Nixon” and “Rush”), but Ron Howard needs to find the right gear again to steer back into our hearts.
Based on actual events during Formula One races of the 1970s, English James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Austrian Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) become racing rivals due to their opposite perspectives and talents that lead them separately to success. Hunt has a reputation for partying and women but has raw talent; Lauda earns his arrogance with a scientific mind and understanding for mechanics but makes no friends. Their separate abilities place them as each other’s only worthy rivals, which both motivates their ambitions yet positions them both in danger. Lauda faces physical challenges after an accident that leaves him scarred, but Hunt is willing to die for his sport.
To play the two unlikeable characters, Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl surprisingly nail their performances, despite their usual charms, and look incredibly similar to the men they play. Hemsworth’s Hunt is reckless and cocky, overshadowing his sex appeal, and Bruhl’s Lauda is smug, openly claiming his superiority and refuting his faults rather than admitting any. The exceptional performances from both actors are unable to muster feeling for them, however. These displeasing characters warrant no sympathy or praise.
Another skilled but average drama from Ron Howard, “Rush” is sure to ride into oblivion as this season’s stronger films pass it. A talented cast and Oscar-winning cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle’s dated stamp on the imagery lay the groundwork for a terrific biopic, but “Rush” doesn’t fuel the audiences adrenaline or emotions.
[Tangent: I still might re-watch “Willow,” “Backdraft,” or “Cinderella Man” after posting this because Howard has made some truly enjoyable films in his career and I still hope for good things if he does direct the fantastic Young Adult story “The Graveyard Book.”]
Rating for “Rush:” B-
For more information on this film or to view its trailer, click here.
“Rush” is currently playing at major theaters in Columbus, including AMC Easton, Lennox, Grove City, and Dublin. For showtimes, click here.