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MOVIE REVIEW : 'Race for Glory' Fails to Get Into Gear

November 07, 1989|MICHAEL WILMINGTON

The motorcycle racing footage in the new movie "Race for Glory" (citywide) was shot at Grand Prix events in Paris, Belgium and Yugoslavia and while it's fairly colorful, exciting stuff, it doesn't have quite the charge the movie makers obviously intended.

It's a film that could use some charge, a conventional male-bonding fable about two small-town guys, a tyro racer and his mechanic, who wind up, improbably, on the European Grand Prix circuit--a story revved up with every crisis, every cliche, every collision standard to the genre.

The director, Rocky Lang, who also wrote the original story, spent five years nurturing this project through the system before making it independently. But, since many of the other movies being made five years ago had pretty much the same story--the buddies together, the goal, the prize, the heinous villains, the sweetheart, the last-minute mano-a-mano duel--it's hard to see how any executives reading it wouldn't suffer from deja vu.

Here, daredevil biker Cody Gifford (Alex McArthur) and super-mechanic Chris Washburn (Peter Berg) are hired by the Japanese corporation, Samurai, after a spectacular dirt-track performance and, with eerie inevitability, they go head to head with a mean German world champion named Klaus.

Since their cycle is spattered with stars and stripes and is dubbed "American Built" and their major adversaries are German and Japanese--the Italians are affable and ineffectual--there's little doubt the climax is supposed to carry a chauvinistic kick.

Yet it doesn't, though director Lang doesn't stint on the melodrama, the hoopla or the blarney. The lead actors--McArthur, Berg and Pamela Ludwig--all have nice presence, and Lang and cinematographer Jack N. Green give it a lucid, clear style. But "Race for Glory" (MPAA rated R for sex and language) is like every other success-mad ultra-formula '80s fable.

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