“Faster” video87
Directed by Mark Neale
(2003)
103 minutes

 by Thomas Day

I don’t own a lot of movies and I only own two motorcycle films (outside of a small collection of World Observed Trials event videos). The trials videos were all gifts. One of the two motorcycle films, “On Any Sunday”, was also a gift. So, the only motorcycle movie I’ve purchased for myself is “Faster: Two Wheels, 200 MPH, Every Man for Himself”. As a general rule, I can’t think of a reason to watch a movie more than once. So why own the damn things? “Faster” is an exception to that rule. I’ve watched “Faster” three times at the theater and at least a half-dozen times at home. Personally, I think I should be able to wrap up this review at this paragraph. Enough said. Go buy “Faster”. However, that’s probably not enough for you, assuming you haven’t already seen this movie at least twice. So here are some more reasons to rent or buy this movie.

If you’re a gearhead, you’re going to love “Faster”. Listening to motorcycle commentators like Julian Ryder; factory technical experts, past-World Champs, team managers, mechanics, and McCoy himself explain how Gary McCoy’s radical riding technique worked, is worth the price of a ticket. Davide Trolli, from Alpinestars, provides a detailed explanation of why kangaroo skin makes the best leathers and I’m sure all you fringy leather boys will run right out and buy a roo-suit afterwards. Ex-world champ, Barry Sheene, describes the invention, his own, of the back protector. Track design and safety mechanisms are explained until you half-believe that it’s possible to survive in this freakin’ insane sport.

If you’re a CSI fan, listening to Dr. Claudio Costa and Claudia Cherici, the MotoGP riders’ medics of choice explain racing injuries and psychology/pathology. You’ll see x-rays of mangled limbs that defy reconstruction, but they’ll be reconstructed and the riders will ride to break new records, bones, and displace organs. The doctor’s description of racer/hero mentality is a psychological study in itself and his relationship with the riders is inexplicable outside of the context of this movie.

If you’re an extreme sport fan, nothing on earth is more extreme than 250hp, 200mph MotoGP racing. Nobody crashes more spectacularly than road racers and these are the most spectacular road racers ever. Neale’s camera team had an incredible feel for catching the bikes in motion and the on-board cameras are like being there. Especially the camera mounted on Valentino Rossi’s bike, sucking up the competition from 14th place to a win.

If you’re into film making, “Faster” is a trip, too. The editing style is almost as hectic as the racing. Scenes snap from press conferences to the race track to crowd scenes to close shots of riders, mechanics, and anyone interesting enough to find a place in a frame or two. The metal sound track is perfectly matched to the 500cc two-strokes and liter fours, some of the best rock guitar sounds ever stuffed into a movie. Sometimes, the music is a power drill pushing holes through the crowd and bike noise, cranking up the pressure when you think what’s on screen couldn’t be pushed any harder. Neale uses elapsed-time shots with a purpose. He moves us through time and speed and faces, so that it almost feels like subliminal advertising. Snap cuts from the race track, to crowd shots, to quick interviews and back to the track keeps the film constantly in motion.

Maybe the best parts are the insight provided by the people around the racers; Rossi’s dad, everyone’s doctor, the roadie mechanics, the ex-champs, the riders’ families, and the riders themselves. These guys are incredibly complicated people and, as such, incredibly interesting. This, in the end, is a film about people with levels of human interest that gets past the usual sport documentary. Moments like the sequence between Kenny Roberts and Barry Sheene discussing when road racers began sliding as a steering tactic, are one of dozens of insights into ego, skill, history, and the stuff that makes these guys go . . . faster. Way faster. Wayne Rainey’s description of the accident that left him in a wheelchair is the other side of this story.

But the racing is what really makes this movie. Without the race scenes, “Faster” would be like Jet Lee without fighting. The racing is beyond anything ever put on film before. Hollywood special effects are tame compared to the real thing and Faster is all about the real thing. These guys are faster than you can imagine, even after you see them on screen. The Right Stuff, Top Guns, and magical superheroes all wrapped up in kangaroo skin and carbon fiber armor. This is a great film.

Watch the credits and listen to the world champs talk about motorcycle safety. Maybe you’ll learn something from people who know more about motorcycling than you’ll ever know.

M.M.M.

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