Rated R. Opens Friday at the AMC Van Ness.
You either get the appeal of the cars going around in circles really fast, or you don't, and Ron Howard's Rush uses every trick in the book to make Formula 1 racing exciting in this mostly true tale of the 1970s rivalry between two drivers, England's James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Austria's Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl). Though it's Hemsworth's big greasy face that's being used to sell the film (an accurate re-creation of the real-life Hunt's own mug, admittedly), the secret hero of Rush is Brühl's Lauda. Methodical, pragmatic, sympathetic in spite of his outward coldness, you just don't often see characters like him in American films, let alone treated with so much respect. (That Rush is a co-production with Germany and the UK probably has a lot to do with it.) Howard's direction is characteristically heavy-handed at times — a montage of Hunt being famous is set to David Bowie's "Fame," geddit? — and there's plenty of melodrama, but Rush manages to avoid one major pitfall: Though there's some brief backstory about how Hunt's and Lauda's relationships with their fathers factored into their decisions to go into auto racing, Rush is not about fathers and sons trying to come to terms with each other. That's a welcome change of pace for a testosterone-drenched film in 2013.