Movie Review: Gran Turismo

The true story of gamers turned racecar drivers overcomes a hackneyed script with slick direction and sports-movie appeal.


Over the course of a few reality-television seasons, Nissan and Sony turned the best video-game racers in the world into actual racecar drivers.

Miraculously, this kinda worked.

None became champions, really, although the protagonist of “Gran Turismo,” Jann Mardenborough (Archie Madekwe), continues to compete at a very high level. The true story in the film — which you’ll be well aware of, as the filmmakers have inserted “Based on a True Story” right into the name of the movie — is a rags-to-riches tale, one of an outlandish idea that (sort of) panned out.

Fortunately, it’s structured like a sports movie, with all the stock characters represented: The slick, unrealistic idea man (Orlando Bloom), the privileged and cocky opponent (Josha Stradowski), the gruff coach looking for redemption (David Harbour). And while the stakes of the races are humble — in the second act, Mardenborough is simply trying to earn a racing license, and the final race sees him fighting to finish third or better for PR reasons — director Neill Blomkamp treats each race as a life-and-death affair.

Literally, in at least one case: Mardenborough was involved in a crash that killed a spectator, an incident that is depicted in the film as an early obstacle the racer must overcome. It may put some viewers off that this real tragedy is reduced to a story point — especially since the victim isn’t named.

That’s one of many flaws in the by-the-number script, which can’t help going back to the same well again and again: Incredulity that “gamers” are trying to leave the couch. Obviously, that’s a remarkable element of the story, but the film — which is overlong at 134 minutes — goes back to it again and again.

Thanks to deft direction and an easily compelling story, though, “Gran Turismo” is watchable and decently enjoyable. There’s a parallel there — just as Mardenborough never finishes better than third, the movie is going to get across the finish line without claiming the checkered flag.

My Rating: 6/10

“Gran Turismo” is now playing in theaters.

Categories: Sean Collier’s Popcorn for Dinner