The first reviews for hybrid video game adaptation / biopic Gran Turismo have hit the web – and they paint an intriguing picture of the flick. For the most part, reviews are fairly mixed, with rare praise heaped on performances from Orlando Bloom and David Harbour, as well as the film’s high speed cinematography – which has been favourably compared to Top Gun by several reviewers.
But while many agree the film is a visual spectacle, directed competently by Neill Blomkamp (District 9, Elysium), issues with the script seemingly hold it back from greatness. One major through line in nearly every published review is that Gran Turismo relies heavily on ‘cringe’ dialogue that is often heavy-handed, and skewed towards promoting Gran Turismo games.
One particular line delivered by Bloom – ‘This whole thing is a marketing extravaganza!’ – has been quoted in several reviews, as it seems to highlight the core issue with Gran Turismo‘s narrative. While it’s designed around the real-life story of gamer-turned-racer Jann Mardenborough, many critics have labelled it a thinly-veiled slice of marketing for Sony and the Gran Turismo franchise.
Here’s the full review round-up for Gran Turismo (2023).
IGN – 6/10
IGN reviewer A.A. Dowd labelled Gran Turismo a ‘slick, watchable hunk of cross-promotional pablum’ saved by its tense racing scenes and sleek direction:
‘The film is pure sports-movie hokum, done with just enough conviction (much of it courtesy of David Harbour, who’s typically excellent in the stock role of a racing veteran-turned-mentor) to help you ignore how relentlessly Gran Turismo advertises the games themselves.’
Empire – 2 Stars
Empire reviewer John Nugent also flagged Gran Turismo‘s lean into heavy marketing, but was slightly less impressed with the action:
‘Gran Turismo, the characters frequently like to remind us, is not a game – it’s a racing simulator. You could just as easily level that this isn’t really a film – it’s mostly just a film simulator. Despite some warm performances, it’s very hard to ignore the feeling that this is largely just two hours of product placement.’
The Guardian – 1 Star
The Guardian reviewer Ryan Gilbey shared a negative review of the film, calling it an underwhelming exercise in product placement filled with repetitive shots:
‘Commerce contaminates the whole endeavour. When Jann gives Jack a heartfelt gift, which company logo is clearly visible on it? … We keep hearing how the original PlayStation product is a driving simulator rather than a mere game. It is a distinction that applies to the movie: this is a simulation of cinema, with scarcely a human fingerprint anywhere on its chassis.’
Variety – Unscored
Owen Gleiberman of Variety was more positive about Gran Turismo, calling it Neill Blomkamp’s ‘best film’ – a title reportedly earned thanks to high drama, plentiful sports car action, and its use of a ‘heightened video game aesthetic’:
‘Blomkamp’s first major feature in eight years, is easily his best. It’s made with a spontaneous humanistic grace, and the racing sequences, which dominate the movie because they’re truly the story it’s telling, are dazzlingly directed and edited. ‘Gran Turismo’ puts the audience in the driver’s seat more than just about any race-car movie I can think of, and it puts us everywhere else as well.’
Deadline – Unscored
A similar sentiment was shared by Todd McCarthy at Deadline, who called Gran Turismo a fresh and provocative racing car drama:
‘Working in an oft-traversed realm, Gran Turismo director Neill Blomkamp and writers Jason Hall and Zach Baylin have delivered a racing car drama that’s rather different from the others. With plenty of potent auto action, some well-defined characters and welcome fresh components, this is an engaging look at people who overcome their own doubts and perceived shortcomings to help pull off something genuinely unusual.’
Gran Turismo launches in cinemas on 10 August 2023 in Australia, and 25 August 2023 in the United States.