Reviewed by: David Stanners

Let's face it. Any film about cars and drag races is going to struggle to sell itself to anyone outside the life of cars and drag racing. If V-Max was a Hollywood creation, it would be pretty dire. The fact that it is Italian and, between the greasy souped up engines, there are human elements at work somehow makes it watchable, but only just.

Claudio (Cristiano Morroni) is 17-years-old, with a knack for cars. Desperate to get into the business, he proves himself worthy and is taken on as an apprentice by Stefano (Valerio Mastandrea), a local mechanic. Stefano works Claudio hard, but provides digs in his house and introduces him to the world of drag racing. Desperate to beat his local rival Fischio (Ivano De Matteo), Stefano uses Claudio to transform an old Ford into the ultimate racing machine.

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One night at the Obelisk - the starting area for the race - Claudio meets Giovanna (Alessia Barela), a tough, feisty Italian dame, with a penchant for bad boys and dreams of a brighter future. Slowly, she falls for young Claudio's quiet innocence and they're on their way. But when she's sacked from her job, a mixture of hormones, naivety and stupidity sets in on Claudio's part and his invitation for Giovanna to stay with him at Stefano's signals the beginning of a torrent of lies, deceit and exploitation.

The trouble with V-Max is that you couldn't care less about the characters. With the exception of Claudio, who's everyone's doormat, they turn out to be losers with no redeeming qualities. In some ways you feel for Claudio, but in others, you want to shake him and tell to put the boot in. When he does, finally, it's too little too late. The implication that Stefano was merely testing Claudio and pushing him towards manhood is a joke.

The most positive aspect is the writer/director's attempt to inject elements of human emotion into what is essentially a story of boys' toys. Including a female figure, who shows promise as an interesting tangent from the rest of the dull macho cardboard cut-outs, comes to nothing when she turns out to be as shallow and dislikeable as Stefano and Fischio. Had the script allowed Giovanna's character to breathe more diversely and awarded young Claudio with a bit more gumption, this might have fared better.

What starts on the right track, ends too close to the scrap heap for comfort.

Reviewed on: 19 Apr 2004
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V-Max packshot
A talented young mechanic is taken on as an apprentice and learns a thing or two about life.
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Director: Daniele Vicari

Writer: Maura Nuccetelli, Laura Paolucci, Daniele Vicari

Starring: Valerio Mastandrea, Cristiano Morroni, Alessia Barela, Ivano De Matteo, Emanuela Barilozzi

Year: 2002

Runtime: 111 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Italy


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