Year:  2023

Director:  Neill Blomkamp

Rated:  M

Release:  August 10, 2023

Distributor: Sony

Running time: 134 minutes

Worth: $13.50
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Archie Madekwe, David Harbour, Orlando Bloom, Darren Barnet, Djimon Hounsou, Geri Halliwell

… an engaging paddy basher that’s worth taking for a quick spin.

The Gran Turismo series has long been a mainstay of Playstation consoles. Focusing on gorgeous-looking, accurate-feeling driving simulation, as opposed to simplistic arcade fun, the games were always a little too niche for ubiquitous mainstream acceptance, but amongst obsessive rev heads, they were (and continue to be) beloved pop cultural artefacts. They were not, however, exactly crying out for a film adaptation. And yet, that’s exactly what director Neill Blomkamp (District 9, Chappie) has given us, and the result is a mixed bag that somehow manages to work more than it doesn’t.

Unlike a lot of video game adaptations, Gran Turismo is actually based on a real life story. Jann Mardenborough was a mad keen player of the eponymous game who, after entering a competition that saw winners getting a chance to race for Team Nissan, moved from his gamer chair to a professional car seat. Gran Turismo tells a semi-accurate version of the story, adding characters and situations for drama and pathos as needed, but keeping the core of the extraordinary tale intact.

Archie Madekwe plays Jann Mardenborough and is an amiable, if not exactly dynamic, figure, but you’ll likely find yourself rooting for the young man. To give the proceedings a little star power, Orlando Bloom plays Danny Moore, a slick marketing executive who starts the whole GT Academy caper and David Harbour steals the show as grizzled former driver turned trainer, Jack Salter. We’ve also got Geri Halliwell playing Jann’s mum, which is sure to simultaneously please and give a mild existential crisis to the Gen Xers in the audience.

It’s also nice to have Neill Blomkamp back directing big budget fare, after he was left out in the cold due to the disappointing box office performance of Elysium (2013) and then Chappie (2015). Although it’s not his most striking work, the South African director knows how to frame an exciting race sequence. There are, of course, a lot of downsides too. Even for a fairly generic sporting triumph flick like this, the dialogue is sometimes painfully awful. Also, the attempts at using gamer slang are deeply cringeworthy and detract from what is a pretty solid yarn otherwise.

Gran Turismo is far, far from a great movie and career cynics and motorsport purists will no doubt find plenty of things to hate. However, for anyone in the mood for a light, well made, corny but agreeable enough sports movie, based on a pretty amazing true(ish) story, Gran Turismo is an engaging paddy basher that’s worth taking for a quick spin.