Review by Sean Boelman
Racing stories have been all the rage in the past few years, with movies like Ford v. Ferrari, Gran Turismo, and Ferrari entering the mainstream. Although it doesn’t have the budget of an American blockbuster, Race for Glory: Audi vs. Lancia seems to have the A-list international cast to back it up. Unfortunately, that star power is deceiving.
Race for Glory tells the story of the 1983 Rally World Championships and the fierce rivalry that formed between the German manufacturer Audi and the Italian manufacturer Lancia. As a primarily Italian production, it will likely come as no surprise to viewers who the “hero” and “villain” are in this rivalry, but the film is frustratingly inept at positioning them.
One of the biggest obstacles the film has to overcome is getting an international audience to care. Italian audiences obviously know the name Lancia, as do car aficionados, but Lancia is hardly as household of a name as say, Ford, Nissan, or Ferrari. Thus, Race for Glory has another obstacle to overcome beyond the average automotive drama, and it fails to adequately absorb viewers into the story beyond them being the standard underdog.
The movie works best as a showcase for Riccardo Scarmacio, who also co-wrote the film. He clearly has a passion for this material — with an educated guess being that he has an interest in this era of automotive history. And the fact that he is able to perform the emotion so consistently across his bilingual performance is nothing short of impressive.
However, the writers’ fascination sadly does not translate into a particularly compelling viewing experience. Although movies about cars are pretty much always going to be “dad movies” by nature, there are ways to make them feel cinematic. With Race for Glory, the writers lean too heavily into the jargon of the engineering and business sides of the story, causing the film to feel incredibly dry.
The race sequences themselves are fine. They aren’t anything special, but they do their job of getting the audience to root for the underdog. However, there simply aren’t many of them, making this feel like a victim of an overly restrictive budget. The filmmakers seem not to have had enough money to tell this story properly, and instead, they created something incredibly bland.
One of the more baffling things about the film is that it totally underuses Daniel Brühl’s Roland Gumpert, the engineer at the German Audi. This is the other place the film really shows its budget, corporatism, patriotism, or some combination of them all. Maybe it’s because the filmmakers couldn’t afford to have Brühl on set for more days, or perhaps they wanted Italy to have more of the focus, but the narrative suffers due to his lack of presence.
Race for Glory: Audi vs. Lancia is not necessarily a bad film — it’s competently made, and Riccardo Scarmacio’s performance is genuinely very good. However, this is the type of movie where you can tell that, with a bit of a bigger budget, it probably could have been something special; that’s what makes it such a letdown.
Race for Glory: Audi vs. Lancia hits theaters and VOD on January 5.