Kip Pardue is rookie CART driver Jimmy Bly a talented kid with all the right moves behind the wheel. After a string of victories puts him in the spotlight the constant pressure to win starts affecting his focus and arch rival Beau Brandenburg (Til Schweiger) pulls ahead in the rankings. In desperation Bly's team owner (Burt Reynolds) calls upon former racing star Joe Tanto (Sylvester Stallone) who faded to semi-retired infamy after a dubious accident ended his career to help guide the youngster. Meanwhile those darn personal issues keep getting in the way--Bly's friendship with Brandenburg's girlfriend (Estella Warren) and Tanto's damaged past.
This is a car racing film 'K? Nobody's watching for Oscar-winning performances. Go in knowing that and you won't be let down. A mellow matured Stallone is well cast as an aging has-been driver who's still got attitude but has his demons to battle; it doesn't require too much of a stretch. Though he shows a hint of promise an awkward Pardue has a way to go. Schweiger had less of a character arc but somehow draws more sympathy and you find yourself rooting for him over the weepy self-absorbed Bly. Warren a low-rent Kate Winslet is unconvincing as the chief distraction for these top drivers. Glittery-eyed Reynolds is pleasingly over-the-top. But watch for Gina Gershon as Tanto's catty ex-wife to steal the show with the movie's best lines.
This is a car racing film 'K? Nobody's watching for Oscar-winning direction. Go in knowing that and you won't be let down. Director Renny Harlin seemed to be aping Michael Bay/Jerry Bruckheimer films with his slow-mo shots larger-than-life special effects and testosterone-driven story lines. If you know nothing about car racing you'll enjoy the high-energy race scenes that require some suspension of disbelief (wrecked tires that fly as high as birds cars that literally leap into first place an impromptu race through downtown Tokyo streets). It's the sappy stories that make this film feel like you're going 35 in an 80 mph zone. A fight scene between Bly and Brandenburg in a club is so squirm-in-your-seat bad you're embarrassed for the actors.