Monday, 2 September 2019

Burning Rubber ☆☆☆☆☆

Oh dear. Just when you thought cinema – or indeed John Travolta’s career – could not get any worse. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Burning Rubber (aka Trading Paint), another in a long line of uncomfortable ego trips for Travolta in a desperate attempt to feel young again, kinda like a cinematic fountain of youth. Except it never works and it makes him look even older. This is one of the most laughable entries in Travolta’s late-career – yes, that includes Gotti - and one that I will really struggle to talk about for long because there’s really nothing to say…

Student Award-winning filmmaker Karzan Kader makes his English-language debut with this story of a legendary father and son racing duo Sam (John Travolta) and Cam (Toby Sebastian) who have a falling out as their winning streak begins to fail. A rival racing giant takes advantage of this rift and offers Cam a lucrative opportunity racing for the adversary (Michael Madsen). Cam accepts and the gap between father and son grows even bigger. Engines rev and sparks fly as the two are set against each other in an ultimate high stakes race and the most dangerous competition between father and son. Last year, Travolta gave us the wonderful gift of the unintentionally hilarious Speed Kills – a story of a veteran speedboat racing champion. And yes, now he’s a veteran race car champion…Bit of a theme developing here, eh?

But I digress. Burning Rubber is every bit as predictable as it sounds. First of all, there’s a painfully sappy, overly sentimental – and pretty aggressively crowbarred in – romance between Travolta and a character played by Shania Twain. Yeah, you read that right. The attempts at a love story here are nothing short of laughable and far more suited to a different film. Any other film. Just not this one. This is supposed to be an intense, kinetic racing film – and the actual racing scenes are few and far between. And when we are in the driver’s seat for a race, it’s bloody dull. Partially due to the piss-poor editing – frantic cutting and disjointed scenes make for a really uncomfortable viewing experience that is difficult to settle into, and semi-decent practical effects on the racecourse are ruined by that. A sequence in which a car is split in half is ruined by the dreadful editing and lack of tension around it.

There’s nothing in Burning Rubber to recommend. John Travolta totally phones it in as usual, while Michael Madsen’s attempts to recapture youth are equally futile. The editing is a mess, the plot is all over the place, the script is pants. To use the parlance of our times, “I can’t even”. There is nothing here. Nothing at all. I hated every single second of it. I wanted it to stop from the second it started. It was what we’ve come to expect from Travolta in every respect, but you deserve better. There are far more valuable ways to spend 90 minutes than with Burning Rubber. Oh, but Kevin Dunn is in it. He’s absolutely wonderful in everything so if you do find yourselves having to endure it, don’t worry. Kevin Dunn has your back. 

Sam Love

Burning Rubber at CeX

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