Sunday, 3 May 2020

Go! (2020) - Movie Review

Well, this sounds familiar: An Aussie sporting movie designed for general audiences that not only focuses on a particularly niche sport, but is also drenched in classic sports movie clich├ęs. Okay, it only sound familiar to me, as I covered a film like this years ago with Paper Planes (which, fittingly enough, has the same writer working on this one), and that film I wound up liking a lot more than I had any reason to on pure kitsch value. I’d like to say the same for this one, but for reasons both good and bad, this is a different beast than trying to make paper aeroplanes seem exciting.

For a sport that the film itself has to lampshade as being a bit out of the age range for the people we keep seeing participating in it, director Owen Trevor (on his feature-length debut) manages to wring quite a bit of energy out of the central go-kart racing. The first-person POV shots of the karts on the track, the varying levels of 80’s synth-worship in the soundtrack, not to mention all of the textbook tropes of the genre like the loner new kid in town as the lead, the troubled former sportsman as his mentor, tried-and-true bullies as the antagonists; much like Paper Planes, it may cover a lot of common ground, but writer Steve Worland shows enough understanding of what makes the genre tick to keep what works and (mostly) jettison what doesn’t.

And what doesn’t end up working is mainly the run time, as there isn’t quite enough going on here to last 100 minutes and change. Part of that is due to the been-there-done-that aspect of the characters and their interactions with each other; there’s only so many times I can see that stupid bloody child-matchmaker gag before thinking several years’ worth of cinema needs to be erased from the history books, lest it continue to haunt screens for any time longer. But mostly, it’s because the races themselves are incredibly short compared to everything else going on, meaning that the main pull of the action and, ostensibly, the point behind the entire film, doesn’t get as much screen time as it rationally should.

However, even with all of that said, there actually is something in here that sets it apart from… well, pretty much any other sports film I’ve watched to date: The Red Mist. In-film, this is the term for a recurring flashback the main character goes through concerning his deceased father, who also had a penchant for racing. Said flashback is littered with digital artifacting and a jarring upgrade in the visual stylisation that it is both the best thing about the movie, while also feeling wholly separate from the rest of it. As far as tapping into the ‘I miss my dad’ trope of the genre, it’s definitely a unique take, to the point of eerily resembling a meme from a few years back, and it gives the production a much-needed boost.

All in all, this is essentially yet another bog-standard underdog sports movie, albeit with one visual gimmick that employs video game mechanics in a surprisingly adept way. It shows that Owen Trevor has some untapped visual chops that could turn into something more fruitful down the line, but otherwise, it’s just one in a sea of what we’ve all seen countless times before.

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