Review: ‘Race For Glory: Audi vs. Lancia’

Thrill-Free Racing Drama Never Puts Pedal To The Metal

What to make of a movie, ostensibly a biopic, that tells its audience the extent of the creative license they’ve taken? One might think it would make for a more exciting movie, free from the standard biopic tropes we’ve all become bored by. But not so with Race for Glory: Audi vs. Lancia, a racing drama that captures none of the thrill of the track, the visceral sense of speed, or the passion for victory.

At best, the film is an incomplete Wikipedia entry covering the 1983 World Rally Championship and the ongoing feud between the titular car manufacturers’ racing teams. The focus is squarely on Lancia’s struggling manager, Cesare Fiorio, played by the film’s co-writer and producer Riccardo Scamarcio. Clearly a passion project for Scamarcio, he eats up most of the screen time to such a degree that there probably should’ve been a title change. Maybe nothing as bland as the recently released Ferrari, but something that more accurately reflects that this is a movie about Fiorio and Lancia.

And what do we learn about Fiorio? Well, he’s obsessed with winning. Unfortunately, business sucks and Fiorio has to employ some underhanded, occasionally comical tricks to maintain appearances. These moments punch up the humor a little bit, but the overall dry tone can’t be ignored. That’s especially true with the racing sequences, which director/co-writer Stefano Mordini fails to inject with any urgency at all. Much of the film follows Fiorio as he tries to come up with a way to boost sales while repeating incessantly that he just really wants to win. He lets anyone who’ll listen know that victory is the only thing on his mind. Scamarcio’s performance as the single-minded, obsessive Fiorio is the film’s most propulsive component.

Race for Glory is especially disappointing because of the presence of Daniel Brühl as Roland Gumpert, manager of Germany’s Audi brand and Fiorio’s nemesis. It’s inescapable that Brühl featured in the far-superior racing thriller Rush, and he seems at a loss as to why he’s here in this movie doing things that are much less exciting. The same goes for a bizarre appearance from Haley Bennett in an uncredited role as a reporter forced to listen to Fiorio’s boasts.

Clocking in at just 108 minutes, it’s not nearly enough time to capture the full scope of the people and relationships in this rivalry. We barely get a hint of Fiorio’s personal life, although we’re expected to believe it matters a great deal. The one intriguing subplot involves Lancia driver Walter Röhrl (Volker Bruch), a legend who Fiorio pulls out of retirement to drive his new, lightweight car to victory. Röhrl is interesting because he waivers in his commitment, happy as he was being out of the limelight. But the film never fully commits to Röhrl’s story, either, and we’re just left to ponder about the true depth of his complexity.

Race for Glory: Audi vs. Lancia fails to get off the blocks. It’s confusing to me that so many racing dramas seem to be more concerned with the men who aren’t behind the wheel rather than those who are out there risking fate at every turn and chasing victory at any cost.

Race for Glory: Audi vs. Lancia is available today in theaters, on demand and digital.

Race for Glory
Travis Hopson
Travis Hopson has been reviewing movies before he even knew there was such a thing. Having grown up on a combination of bad '80s movies, pro wrestling, comic books, and hip-hop, Travis is uniquely positioned to geek out on just about everything under the sun. A vampire who walks during the day and refuses to sleep, Travis is the co-creator and lead writer for Punch Drunk Critics. He is also a contributor to Good Morning Washington, WBAL Morning News, and WETA Around Town. In the five minutes a day he's not working, Travis is also a voice actor, podcaster, and Twitch gamer. Travis is a voting member of the Critics Choice Association (CCA), Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), and Late Night programmer for the Lakefront Film Festival.
review-race-for-gloryWhat to make of a movie, ostensibly a biopic, that tells its audience the extent of the creative license they've taken? One might think it would make for a more exciting movie, free from the standard biopic tropes we've all become bored by. But...