Friday, November 23, 2007

Movies: Silver Dream Racer.

Via: DVD times U.K.

"British pop star David Essex stars as Nick Freeman, a small-time motorbike racer whose ambition is limited both by cashflow problems and a bad attitude on the track, best described by Nick's rival, Bruce McBride (Beau Bridges), when he stops to brush an imaginary chip off his shoulder. Unlike Bruce, who has the huge Trans World Racing empire backing him, Nick makes do with a beaten-up racing bike, his best friend, Cider Jones (Clarke Peters), as his mechanic and whatever spares he can escort off the premises at the mechanics, where he works in stores. But one night, Nick receives bad news - his brother is dead following a motocross accident - and once the funeral has taken place, his widow, Tina (Diane Keen), asks Nick to look at the bikes that he left in the garage and to get rid of them, getting a fair price where he can.

What Nick finds amongst the various disassembled racing bikes, is a prototype of a bike designed by his brother but which has yet to be tested. Together with Cider, he leaves for a test track where they meet Bruce McBride as well as Julie Prince (Cristina Raines), an American studying medicine in London who appears to be having an on/off relationship with Bruce. But as she and Nick get to know one another better, they begin a romance, with her promising to help Nick get funding to not only test his bike but to bring it to manufacture and to race in the world championship at Silverstone, where he hopes to take the chequered flag with his silver dream machine.
Silver Dream Racer is a classic story of the underdog, with Essex's Nick Freeman being as much of a surefire loser as Bruce McBride is as much a winner. Where the American has his bike parked for him in an enormous articulated truck that's parked in the paddock, Nick Freeman and Cider push their bike up a homemade ramp into the back of a Bedford van that's decorated with sponsor's adverts that look to be more hopeful than actually having been paid for. With his discovery of the titular bike - that Nick finding it is somewhat miraculous is never in question given that it sparkles and shines more than did Excalibur in Boorman's fantasy epic or indeed Robert Powell in Jesus Of Nazareth - Nick goes from donkey to thoroughbred in almost as short a time has it takes him to complete a lap at Silverstone on his silver dream machine.

All of this has something to do with the bike being a revolutionary design, enough to attract Benson (Patrick Ryecart), a venture capitalist and bike collector, who's prepared to finance Nick but from not actually being a biker, I'd struggle to tell you how it's so different from your average racing bike. It's apparently enough to attract everyone in the film to the otherwise blank-faced Essex, including having Julie Prince almost running across the track to admire the bike, not to mention Essex himself and it's this rivalry with Bruce McBride, on the track and in their affairs with Prince, that gives the film some focus.

In all other respects, though, the film lacks focus with Essex just stumbling from track to bed and back again, occasionally taking a detour via Hughes, his place of work. There's few laughs, little passion and barring a piece of exhibition biking outside a Notting Hill club, wheelies and all, that ends in a punch-up, not much excitement. Even the final race, the World Championship at Silverstone, is only so very ordinary with any tension in the pack of bikers evaporating at the moment when Essex realises that it's alright to redline his bike. Frankly, it shouldn't take any expertise in racing to know that - after all, who hasn't redlined their car whilst overtaking - and to have this as a denouement shows a certain lack of imagination.

But what I can't take away from Silver Dream Racer is the clear sense of Britishness about it, which is wholly welcome, similar to that in Quadrophenia, wherein you can almost smell the runny eggs, chips, fried bread, ketchup and milky tea. It's difficult to pin this down to any particular aspect of the movie - it could, after all, be due to the presence of Harry H Corbett as Wiggins, the sight of a Bedford van or Julie's MG Midget or the view from Benson's office that overlooks the Thames - but when we tend to associate biker movies with the US, such as The Wild One, The Wild Angels and Easy Rider, to have one that's more concerned with Notting Hill and Silverstone than Beverly Hills and the Altamont Speedway is a fine thing indeed. And yet, not quite fine enough as this is simply a very dull thing compared to such a film as Electra Glide In Blue. For British motor biking thrills, I'd suggest sticking with Quadrophenia, albeit that it's rather more fond of Vespas than BSAs, but where it offers a journey down to Brighton that's full of laughs, thrills and, tucked under the seat, pills, not to mention The Who, Silver Dream Racer is as plodding a film as David Essex's lifeless and little-remembered score."

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