'Gran Turismo' review: Playstation game comes to life in biopic that runs out of gas
Courtesy of Sony
“Gran Turismo,” an adaptation of the popular Playstation racing game, is not your ordinary “movie based on a video game” property like fellow Playstation brethren “Uncharted” or “The Last of Us.” Director Neill Blomkamp and writers Jason Hall and Zach Baylin made the interesting decision of sculpting a biopic about real life race car driver Jann Mardenborough and utilizing the game’s name brand recognition to help sell it. It’s a decent misdirect that elevates “Gran Turismo” among the catalog of video games movies that sometimes struggle to find their identity. But in the case of the movie’s quality and facts (and essentially acting as a giant commercial for Playstation and Nissan), “Gran Turismo” is a movie which runs out of gas before crossing the finish line.
Chalk it up to the way Orlando Bloom’s character tries pronouncing the word Nissan throughout the movie, the crummy visual effects, or the static racing sequences that offer minimal excitement. It’s hard to get invested in a movie where it’s basically saying you’d probably have more fun if you just went home and fired up the game instead. “Gran Turismo” takes many “liberties” with the based on the true story angle, including the creation of an inspirational couch played by David Harbour. Sure, the basic narrative foundation of the film is true, wherein British driver Jann Mardenborough used his “Gran Turismo” chops to become a professional athlete in the field, but that’s really it. So it becomes a question of why did the filmmakers go to the lengths to make him the subject of their movie and then butcher the facts? “Inspired” by a true story would’ve been more accurate.
Nevertheless, “Gran Turismo” follows Mardenborough (Archie Madekwe) and how he developed top-notch racer skills from logging countless hours on the video game. Those skills were transferred to a competition that eventually landed him a spot at Gran Turismo Academy (who knew such a place existed?!) where he would get trained to become a professional racer. From there, the movie throws those components into a blender and turns it into a cliche sports drama, complete with angsty villains, the stereotypical father figure (Djimon Hounsou) who thinks his son chasing a racing career is silly, and a forced romantic subplot that’s over before it even starts.
Now, some of these blemishes, including how the films shamelessly tweaks a real life spectator's death to service the redemption of the main character, might be forgiven if the races had some flourish. Instead, running a lengthy 135-minutes, I’d argue there were too many races and not enough memorable ones. Blomkamp, still hoping you remember him as the director of “District 9,” the only major smash on his resume, brings minimal emotion or stakes to these headliner moments . He stumbles out of the gate and doesn’t make a strong case for audiences to show up in theaters when the video game at home is guaranteed to be more fulfilling.
GRAN TURISMO opens in theaters nationwide Friday, August 25th.