Having made plenty of money for studios, director Ron Howard and producer buddy Brian Grazer have are allowed to go places others wouldn’t be allowed.
An expensive movie about Formula 1 racing — a sport that is decidedly not popular in the United States — is more for the international crowd and would likely not be touched by most studios without Howard and Grazer attached.
The two have tried their hand at a sports movie before — Cinderella Man about Depression Era boxer Jim Braddock — and it was a bomb. Let’s hope there’s not a similar response for Rush. The story is true, and compelling, yet the audience may just be too small in this country.
Still, Howard has created a taut film based on the real-life rivalry between Austrian driver Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) and British James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) that reached its peak of competition in 1976.
The film is fairly true to that season, particularly Lauda’s horrific crash in Germany that left him permanently scarred from the burns, and the bizarre finish to that year’s final race in Japan. Yet the movie’s focus is on the polar opposites of the characters with the sport as a backdrop.
Lauda was a wildly successful driver, who was a F1 champion many times. He is portrayed well by Bruhl as being cold, arrogant, calculating and brilliant.
Hunt was equally successful, but Lauda’s opposite.
Hemsworth steals the movie as a partying, woman-chasing, drug- and alcohol-abusing Hunt. Of course, both men are blessed with love interests — Hunt by a professional model (Olivia Wilde), who, like him, is a beautiful narcissist.
By the end of the two-hour film you come to like both men for their differences. Howard does an expert job of weaving in the racing between the story of their conflict, heightening the suspense of the close race for the F1 title.
Much like Cinderella Man, Howard and Grazer have found a relatively obscure story from the past to create the rare good sports movie. Perhaps this time the audience will be a little bit bigger for Rush.