Film Review: Race for Glory: Audi vs. Lancia is a likeable, occasionally thrilling underdog racing drama

In the same week that Ferrari arrives in Australian theatres, Race for Glory: Audi vs. Lancia hits American multiplexes, digital and On Demand (an Australian release is yet to be determined), showcasing a more accessible racing story and the men driving such to fruition.

Creative licence and enhanced melodrama are unavoidable in telling this particular tale, but Stefano Mordini‘s likeable, occasionally thrilling drama suits the underdog mentality of the narrative at its core.  The Audi and Lancia detailed in the title are the German and Italian vehicle manufacturers who went head-to-head in the 1983 World Rally Championship, which was framed as something of a David vs. Goliath-type showdown, given Audi entered the season with a heft of funding and forward-thinking technology, whereas Lancia continually struggled to keep pace.

It’s of immense benefit to us as viewers to earn a connection to the film through Cesare Fiorio, played with an affable intensity by Riccardo Scamarcio (who co-wrote the script alongside Mordini and Filippo Bologna), Lancia’s team manager, who epitomises the ruthless temperament needed to survive in such a field.  He’s a man obsessed, and he’s uncompromising in his vision, but Scamarcio manages to maintain a sense of humanity throughout.  Given the “vs.” in the film’s title, some may be surprised that there’s more battles off the track than there are on, but when Race for Glory (which was originally titled 2 Win) flexes its physical muscle, it’s quite a thrilling film to behold, but Scamarcio’s back-and-forth with Daniel Brühl, as Fiorio’s corporate rival, and Volker Bruch, as a German driving legend lured out of retirement to helm Lancia’s racing model, is where it truly excels.

A less successful additive of the film are the interview segments peppered throughout.  Here, Cesare is questioned by an American journalist (played by Haley Bennett), but the probing is never overtly deep, and these scenes feel a little too tacked on to feel truly organic to Mordini’s film as a whole.  Additionally, sequences devoted to technical jargon about the engineering side of racing and car structure are presented in a manner that, whilst perhaps correct in their detail, aren’t written in a way that make it necessarily easy for the general audience member to follow.  It’s nit-picky, but Race for Glory very much operates as if it’s catering to the masses, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed in moments that could potentially exclude.

A better film whenever Scamarcio is dominating on screen (you feel his absence when the film strays from him at times), Race for Glory doesn’t hit the heights of, say, Ford v Ferrari, but it has an emotional centre that keeps it above the sugar-coated mindset it occasionally falls victim to in its attempt to please a wider audience.

THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Race for Glory: Audi vs. Lancia is screening in theatres and available on Digital and On Demand in the United States from January 5th, 2024.  An Australian release date is yet to be determined.

Peter Gray

Film critic with a penchant for Dwayne Johnson, Jason Momoa, Michelle Pfeiffer and horror movies, harbouring the desire to be a face of entertainment news.