Review: ‘Gran Turismo’ solid entry to cap summer movie season

Archie Madekwe in Gran Turismo (2.0 Entertainment)

With school back in session and the calendar about to flip over to the “ber” months, “Gran Turismo: Based on a True Story” makes its way into theaters with little time to spare to be considered a summer movie.

However Columbia Pictures was wise to hold this film out of the summer-movie glut that saw major film after major film underperform at the box office.

Had “Gran Turismo” been released in July it would have been swamped by the “Barbie” and Oppenheimer” tsunami like the latest Indiana Jones and Mission: Impossible films as well as the DC Comics super-hero box-office dud “The Flash.”

On the whole, I’m not sure that “Gran Turismo” is much better than any of those films, but it does have a lot less competition, and that gives the formulaic but well-made film by director Neil Blomkamp a chance at the box office? Maybe?

The film is much better than I expected with its engaging underdog story, which happens to be mostly true.

Teenage retail employee and gamer Jann Mardenborough (Archie Madekwe) parlays his skills as a gamer into nabbing a spot in a training program for race drivers, and actually uses the opportunity to vault his way onto the race track despite the misgivings of his family, particularly his soccer-loving father, Steve, played by Djimon Hounsou.

Jann and the other participants are all initially doubted by ex-racer Jack Salter (David Harbor) who is hired to train them, but after an initial clash, Jack begins to see something in Jann, and later stands up for him and becomes his trainer.

Jann earns his shot to compete and must finish fourth in at least one of a series of races to earn his professional license as well as a contract with Nissan.

Though the movie follows the inspiring sports drama formula to a “T,” I fell under its sway and was caught up in the excitement. Other opinions may differ, but it’s the best movie Blomkamp has made since his outstanding 2009 directorial debut with “District 9.”

The action and tension on the track works and zings just as the family drama is relatable and dynamic. The film hits all the right notes in telling Jann’s story, and the chemistry between Harbor and Madekwe nails the dynamic that is tried and true and yet not at all stale.

Archie Madekwe and David Harbor in Gran Turismo (2.0 Entertainment)

Hounsou gives another strong character performance as Jann’s father, and former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell-Homer also turns in a surprisingly strong performance as Jann’s mother, Lesley.

The movie is deftly shot with surprisingly few digital effects, which really pays off. The drone shots put you in the action, which is quite compelling as captured by Blomkamp and his cinematographer Jacques Jouffret. The sound design the race action makes the scenes even more riveting and claustrophobic in the best possible way.

While based on a true story, the movie obviously takes its liberties with what actually happened, and time has been compressed to fit the story into the movie’s 2-hours and 11-minute running time.

Like any film based on a true story, the more familiar you are with that story, the more difference you are likely to notice. For some that’s harder to get over than others. Movies are made for the widest audience not to please there much smaller percentage of those who dote on every detail.

Admittedly my expectations were low going into the movie, but the film was a well-made, pleasant surprise. I doubt the film will be in consideration for any Oscars beyond something from the technical categories, but I’d place it among the top fourth of movies I’ve seen this summer.

(PG-13) 2 hr. 14 min.
Grade: B

New in Local Theaters – Aug. 25, 2023

  • Gran Turismo: Based on a True Story (PG-13) 2 hr. 14 min. (trailer)
    (AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Pinnacle, Malco Towne, Skylight)
  • Retribution (R) 1 hr. 30 min. (trailer)
    (AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Pinnacle)
  • Golda (PG-13) 1 hr. 40 min. (trailer)
    (AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Pinnacle)
  • The Hill (PG) 2 hr. 6 min. (trailer)
    (AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Pinnacle)

Classic Corner – The Maltese Falcon

Humphrey Bogart, Ward Bond, and Barton MacLane in The Maltese Falcon (Warner Bros.)

The 1941 classic film noir classic “The Maltese Falcon” is featured at 9 p.m. Sunday on Turner Classic Movies’ “Summer Under the Stars” promotion (, in which a single star’s films are featured all day.

The film, scripted and directed by John Huston, practically established the conventions for all private-eye films and TV shows that followed. “The Maltese Falcon” is still considered among the top 23 movies ever made by the American Film Institute.

If “Casablanca” cemented Humphrey Bogart as THE star among stars of 1940s Hollywood, then his turn as novelist Dashiell Hammett’s quintessential private eye Sam Spade catapulted him on that course.

Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet are outstanding in key supporting roles, and Mary Astor’s performance is one of the most duplicitous femme fatales ever committed to film.

The movie keeps viewer and its characters guessing until the very end when we all learn how we’ve been played.

With this film, Bogart’s image transforms from being just a tough guy to being a hero in the rough. His characters maintain their edge but shifts from being the second-billed anti-hero in most of his films to taking center stage as the Bogie we are most familiar with from films like “Casablanca,” “To Have and Have Not,” and “African Queen.”

Before “The Maltese Falcon” Bogart was a reliable character actor. After he became one of the most popular stars in Hollywood, remaining a box-office draw until his death from cancer in 1957.