Review by Camden Ferrell
The Racer is the newest film from director Kieron J. Walsh. The film was an official selection of the 2020 SXSW Film Festival. The film is an interesting look at real-life events in the cycling world, but it sometimes feels monotonous and unengaging.
This film is a fictionalized account of the 1998 Tour de France (aka Tour du Dopage). Dominique is a domestique, a cyclist who works for the benefit of his team rather than trying to win the race. He is part of a cycling team during the Irish stages of the race, but he is surrounded by a culture of doping. This is an interesting historical event that many viewers may not know about, and it’s an interesting premise on which to tell this story.
The script, written by Walsh and Ciaran Cassidy, isn’t objectionable but isn’t impressive either. A lot of the dialogue feels clunky and unnatural. It doesn’t confused viewers with unnecessary jargon, but it doesn’t do a through enough job of informing the viewer about the many intricacies of cycling. It’s a script that is decent for the most part, but it lacks a strong character or personality to drive the film.
Most of the actors in this movie give fairly forgettable performances. Louis Talpe plays Dominique, and he leads this movie gracefully through its more exciting moments but struggles to find footing when dealing with slower and more tender exchanges. The characters are really engaging when they are in the world of cycling, but in between races, there’s something to be desired.
The film creates some realistic stakes, but it ultimately feels hollow. It doesn’t allow you to get invested in the characters fully especially when they are doping in order to win races. While the characters aren’t meant to be honorable, the movie still makes it difficult to fully invest in their story.
Walsh does a great job directing the cycling scenes. They are often very energetic, and they make great use of camera movement and composition. It’s exciting, and it’s an aspect of the movie that is severely underutilized. The movie falters during the filler scenes, and this is due to some uninspired execution that make the scenes feel more lethargic than they actually are.
Despite all of its flaws, this is still a movie that benefits from its historical basis and exciting cycling scenes. It doesn’t ever find consistency in its tone or pace, but it does show promise for the director and leading actor.
The Racer is a sports drama that may not be for everyone. Cycling enthusiasts will most likely enjoy this fictional retelling of history, but the muddled drama will most likely be a slight turn off for some viewers.
The Racer is available on VOD September 18.