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TV REVIEW : 'Born to Run': A Durable Tale of Racers

August 02, 1993|RAY LOYND | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The American teen-age male fantasy is being king of the blacktop--awaiting the start of some outlaw road race, gunning his engine and smiling that deadly grin at a rival driver before peeling off into the dark while his sweetheart yells from the sideline.

The scene drives to the heart of American pop culture. Who can forget James Dean racing that game of "chicken" in "A Rebel Without a Cause" with Natalie Wood jumping up and down in her plaid skirt?

If you feel that stuff is now a little gender-dated, tune into "Born to Run" on Fox Night at the Movies (8-10 tonight on Channel 11).

The plot (from a script by Randall M. Badat and Frank Bitetto) is so derivative it's a veritable racing car movie manual: the heroic, dashing driver who races for pride and the purity of it all (Richard Grieco); his hapless, gambling brother (Jay Acovone) who loses his ratty used-car lot to the town's suave crime boss (Joe Cortese doing early Kirk Douglas) whose lover (Shelli Lether) dumps the mobster for the young hero who races a 428 Cobra Jet Mach 1 Mustang.

Who can resist a story like this? It's apple pie and baseball and, more to the point, it's sexy. The street racing is hotter than the requisite lovemaking between Grieco (who agitated teen hearts as Booker on Fox's "21 Jump Street") and Lether (in a silky acting debut that won't necessarily return to haunt her).

What's surprising is how durable this story remains.

The reason lies in the pristine direction of Albert Magnoli ("Purple Rain") and the cobalt blue colors of cinematographer Tobias Schliessler.

When they line up their cars in the blue-black night, mist billowing, flames flying from rows of oil cans marking the quarter-mile run, drivers scowling at one another, the laser-beam of twin flashlights finally kicking the cars into motion, why, this is movie heaven.

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