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There’s a truly gripping story at the core of “Rush” of how famed Formula One driver Niki Lauda was nearly killed in a horrific crash at the 1976 German Grand Prix that left him with a terribly burned face and damaged lungs. And yet only six weeks later he was back in the cockpit, competing — and winning — again.

Such courage. Such willpower. Such are the things that action movies are made of. Too bad the movie that Ron Howard has actually made is mostly a lot of noise and nonsense, a garish enterprise that almost — though not quite — trivializes the tale.

That tale is about
the rivalry between two drivers: Lauda and James Hunt. Played with an easygoing insouciance by Chris Hemsworth (“Thor”), Hunt, a Brit, is a longhair party animal who has merely to cast his roving eye on any random passing beauty and — Boom! — into his bed that beauty hops.

By contrast, Lauda (Daniel Brühl), an Austrian, is a Teutonic caricature: a maximally arrogant, obsessively detail-oriented cold fish whose scorn for his hedonistic rival drips from every icy pore. Though the major focus is on Hemsworth’s Hunt, it’s Bruhl’s performance that dominates. He’s caustic and compelling compared with Hemsworth’s blandness.

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They’re like oil and water, these two, calling each other names, flipping the bird, but at the same time exhibiting a grudging respect for each other’s driving skills. That’s a stark and simplistic dynamic, and Howard’s handling of it is disappointingly simple-minded.

As for the racing sequences: oh dear. Those seem to have been edited with a Cuisinart. They’re chaotic assemblages of smoking tires, howling exhaust pipes, spinouts, crashes — all coming at you so fast you have little sense of how the races are progressing.

Only Brühl’s standout performance prevents “Rush” from becoming a total wreck.

Soren Andersen:

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