16th Dec2020

‘The Racer’ Review

by Kevin Haldon

Stars: Louis Talpe, Iain Glen, Matteo Simoni, Tara Lee, Karel Roden, Timo Wagner | Written by Kieron J.Walsh, Ciaran Cassidy | Directed by Kieron J.Walsh

It’s been a funny old few years for the Tour De France, with some shocking truths being revealed about racers having taken illegal enhancements. At first it seemed like there was only one or two of the top level guys but then documentary after documentary started bringing the whole era of doping to the forefront and it was revealed that… Well everybody was into it, top to bottom! This is something that the sport is going to have to endure and dare I say it “own it”. It’s done now let’s clean house and move on.

Of course this does pose a little bit of a quandary. How can you “just move on” when there are so many interesting stories that can be told here. We don’t know the true extent to how much it was happening , we don’t know when these athletes started doing it. We don’t know why? And most importantly we have no idea how it effected the racer! Because believe me that kind of abuse to ones body cannot be sustained without taking a few years off you… Enter The Racer… An exhilarating look into the life of one such racer as he approaches his final years competing after a lifetime of putting his body through the ringer.

Veteran Belgian Tour De France racer Dom Chabol (Louis Talpe) for the last 20 odd years has been considered the best “Domestique” in the game. The thankless role of supporting the guy who is supposed to win the race as you sacrifice your position for the team. It’s summer 1998, the opening stages are set to be held in Ireland and team coach The Viking (Karen Roden) has just dropped Dom. With a lifetime of commitment to essentially losing every race on purpose, his body being battered from the measures these guys must take its understandable he feels a bit cheated and finds solace in best friend and team masseur Sonny (Iain Glen). An encounter with a young Irish Nurse Lynn (Tara Lee) and the prospect of civilian life might not be the worst thing… Until a huge doping error has a team mate dropped and Dom is called right back into the action.

The Racer is an interesting one. Not exactly a documentary set around the facts but but more “based on a true story” kind of film; we do know that these racers and their teams were doing this kind of thing. So while this is more than likely steeped in a lot of facts I maybe wouldn’t go in taking it as such. I say this because If you look at this as a dramatization of a man and a team that COULD have possibly gone through this and don’t get overly hung up on the facts of it all then I guarantee you will enjoy the film.

Louis Talpe is stunning in the lead role. The depth of this character is just incredible, when we meet him we have no idea where his future is leading, we shortly find out his father has died but he is so committed to the tour he feels it’s unlikely he will make the funeral, we then realize his body is in a hugely fragile state after the years and years of doping and stress he has been putting on it and then he gets dropped. Talpe beautifully walks this fine line of hope for his future and the utter tragedy of his reality. Knowing his role is to never win but longing for it so badly, realizing his commitment is not reciprocated by his team as he is expendable to them but they are not to him. I can’t speak highly enough about Talpe and the role he puts in here, yes he has a great script and story to work with and his supporting cast are all great but make no mistake this is Louis Talpe’s movie.

Supporting cast-wise you have the ultimate friend zone inhabitant Iain Glen (always time for a Game Of Throne reference) as Sonny, potentially Dom’s only real friend in this world. I loved their friendship and it’s not over egged for the sake of it. Tara Lee is just great she brings this wonderful hopefulness and a real down to earth quality to the flick, I really loved this actress and she is a very bright shining light in this.

One of the biggest winners of this flick is the cinematography. James Mather did a simply exquisite job with The Racer and shot this movie in such away that the racing looked action-packed but the quiet slow paced landscape shots are gorgeous. Although, that’s what happens when you shoot in Ireland.

I love what Kieron J. Walsh has created with The Racer and while it may not be 100% correct in terms of facts you can guarantee these stories existed. There is action where it’s needed and there is heart all the way through. But the thing that really hit me and stayed with me was the fact that even when things were going right and well for our characters, there was still and unshakeable feel of how tragic this situation is! Or maybe that’s just me projecting my insecurities?

**** 4/5

Vertigo Releasing presents The Racer on streaming platforms from 18th December.


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