In Lamborghini: The Man Behind The Legend, there's nothing under the hood

Frank Grillo in Lamborghini: The Man Behind The Legend.
Frank Grillo in Lamborghini: The Man Behind The Legend.

Usually, with a biopic, one immediately understands why a famous person’s life is worthy of a film. Either the person has held people’s imagination, or their story has become culturally significant. Sometimes a filmmaker finds an absorbing but lesser-known chapter in someone’s life that acts as a hook into a story. None of these things exist in Bobby Moresco’s Lamborghini: The Man Behind The Legend. We never understand why a movie about the Italian automobile designer and engineer was made. What part of his legacy or life inspired Moresco? This is anonymous filmmaking of the highest order—it could be about anyone. There’s no insight into Ferruccio Lamborghini or what made his pursuits special. It could also be directed by anyone—Moresco’s indistinct filmmaking is neither enthralling nor involving.

The film starts in the 1960s with middle-aged Lamborghini (played by Frank Grillo) engaged in a closed-circuit car race with Enzo Ferrari (Gabriel Byrne). Perhaps Moresco is setting up a rivalry between the two Italian automobile titans? But before we understand what’s going on, the film jumps back to the end of WWII, when a younger Lamborghini (played by Romano Reggiani) returned from battle to his father’s farm. He tries helping by building tractors, evidencing his interest in being a mechanic. A friendship and shared engineering passion develops with Matteo (Matteo Leoni), a fellow soldier. He falls in love with a beautiful woman, Celia (Hannah van der Westhuysen).

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Bland as these early scenes are, they are not helped by the younger actors, who give leaden performances that make conversations about car engines and bank loans somehow sound even duller. Even when tragedy strikes, the film remains emotionally opaque. And then a stupid romantic rivalry is introduced to tell us that Lamborghini is—what? Selfish? Maniacally driven even at a cost to those closest to him? It’s unclear.

Things perk up a bit when Grillo takes over the part about halfway through. He brings charisma and a certain “je ne sais quoi” that makes him immensely watchable. Unfortunately, like the other actors, he’s stuck speaking English with an Italian accent, a misguided choice that makes most scenes laughable. Grillo doesn’t seem particularly invested in the accent, which comes and goes. So why not ditch it altogether? It’s not like the characters actually spoke English in their real lives.

The script never gives the audience any psychological insight into the characters. It just goes through Wikipedia highlights of Lamborghini’s life. During this section, Mira Sorvino appears as Annita, Lamborghini’s second wife. She’s saddled with a nothing part, forced to lurk on the sidelines and repeat what her husband says—either disbelievingly or disapprovingly. Well, until she unceremoniously disappears altogether.

Lamborghini: The Man Behind The Legend (2022 Movie) Official Trailer - Frank Grillo, Gabriel Byrne

Throughout all this, the film keeps cutting back to that opening race between Lamborghini and Ferrari. Yet no context is given—it’s never clear where this race takes place or why there’s no one but the two of them present. Is it a dream sequence? More egregiously, the rivalry that’s promised never materializes. Byrne appears in only three scenes, suggesting he might have signed on and then dropped out. Did the filmmakers not pay him so he quit after only filming a fraction of his scenes? These questions, which are completely outside of the story and the film, are what the audience is left contemplating. Nothing on screen makes sense—or is remotely as interesting as those possible answers.

Additionally, nothing is gleaned about what made Lamborghini’s cars so distinctive. The only insight comes from a title card in the closing credits. Shot in small rooms where only parts of a vehicle are shown, the scenes meant to explain their “legend” prove the most unremarkable, comprised of men huddling together and talking in the most general of terms. Races that look like they were shot on backroads are completely unconvincing and unexciting. Also unconvincing is the makeup when an injury happens. Everything is shoddy and unbelievable.

Fortunately, the film is only 97 minutes long. But even this grace note comes at a cost to the viewer. The end of the story comes out of nowhere, as if the filmmakers ran out of money and stopped shooting before they were really done. A peculiar film; Lamborghini: The Man Behind The Legend never gives the audience a reason for its existence.

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