Stars: Archie Madekwe, David Harbour, Djimon Housou, Geri Halliwell Horner, Darren Barnett, Daniel Puig
Au unpleasant if inevitable whiff of commerce pervades this extended Playstation ad, based, remarkably, and alarmingly, on a true story.
It begins with Nissan marketing executive Danny Moore (a charmless Bloom) pitching a competition to the company heads in which the ten best players of PlayStation’s virtual racing game ‘Gran Turismo’ will be given the chance to compete in a real racing event sponsored by Nisan. His bosses accept the proposal leaving Danny with the problem of finding a trainer willing to train a bunch of arcade drivers for such a worryingly dangerous assignment. All other options exhausted, Danny turns to Jack Salter (Harbour) a onetime boy-most-likely-to turned grizzled mechanic.
One of the hopefuls is Jann Mardenborough, a shy young Welsh gamer and Gran Turismo ace. His father Steve (Honsou) an ex-professional football player and his older football playing brother Steve (Puig) disapprove of the amount of time Jann is spending on the game in his bedroom. His mother Lesley (Geri Horner aka Geri Halliwell) is more supportive.
When Jann miraculously wins his local heat, he is whisked away from a Wales where nobody seems to have a Welsh accent, for a punishing training session with his fellow arcade jockeys. The drivers who pass the rigorous tests go on to compete in a real series of globe-trotting races where the reality of race car driving proves much tougher than they had anticipated.
This is a disappointingly uninspired and anonymous effort from director Neill ‘District 9’ Blomkamp, lurching ungraciously from scene from scene to scene as Archie gradually wins over his gruff trainer and works his way up the chart.
The rendering of the races feels ersatz and broadly underwhelming, often akin to watching someone else play a video game, save for a striking effect where the chassis of a real or virtual car assembles Transformers-style around the driver. Otherwise, the sort of visual élan that characterised, say, the Wachowski’s bonkers ‘Speed Racer’ adaptation is completely absent.
Characterisation is thin. Madekwe is likeable enough but his character is a little too sheepish to front a story. Harbour’s character is supposed to be defeated and disillusioned so who is to say where the performance begins and ends? Geri Halliwell Horner is another actor who appears in this film.
The depiction of buccaneering capitalism, unhindered by pesky notions of health and safety and duty of care, would almost feel like a troll in these times of corporate irresponsibility. Or it would if this was a smarter film, which it isn’t.
Gran Turismo is out now
Follow David on Twitter @DWill_Crackfilm
Image: Sony Pictures