I’ve always been a fan of Frank Grillo and have often found him to be underrated as an actor. A lot of it may have to do with his choices of roles, some of which aren’t especially good at showing off his talent. That’s why it’s nice to see him get a meaty lead spot in a movie like “Lamborghini: The Man Behind the Legend” – one that doesn’t rely so heavily on Grillo’s bankable tough-guy persona. And to no surprise, Grillo is quite good playing luxury car maker and namesake Ferruccio Lamborghini. If only the film itself wasn’t so disappointingly flavorless.
Sadly, “Lamborghini” turns out to be a frustratingly bare-bones biopic that never gets out of neutral. What we end up getting is more of sketch than a full-fledged portrait of the man behind the world famous automobiles. The film hits on the most basic points in Ferruccio Lamborghini’s life, many of which are easy to predict mainly because they stick so close to the tried-and-true biopic formula. As a result, the film does nothing that makes Lamborghini’s story stand out against the countless other celebrity biographies that have came down the movie pipeline.
The film opens in 1982 at the Lamborghini vineyard in Umbria, Italy, where an aged Ferruccio Lamborghini (Grillo) sits alone, looking down at a model of a blue Lamborghini Countach. He begins to recall his past life, including a seemingly friendly street race he had with rival Enzo Ferrari (a woefully underused Gabriel Byrne) that never amounts to much. I’m still not sure whether the older Ferruccio’s reflection is meant to be a framing device. It’s too vaguely presented to know for sure. Either way, writer-director Robert Moresco quickly ushers us back in time to kick off his story.
In Cento, Italy shortly after World War II had ended, a younger Ferruccio Lamborghini (played by Romano Reggiani) returns home from the war. His first order of business is to surprise his girl Clelia (Hannah van der Westhuysen). Then he heads home to see his father and brothers. We learn Ferruccio was a mechanic during the war and learned all about engines. Now he wants to take that knowledge to make and sell tractors, much to the chagrin of his farming father. But Ferruccio’s ambition and thirst for success can’t be quenched.
From there the movie chronicles Ferruccio’s push to turn his dream into a reality. He and his best friend Matteo (Matteo Leoni) go to work building building their first engine and designing their first tractor. Soon they’re starting up their own company. But as Ferruccio’s ambition turns to obsession, he finds himself alienating those closest to him.
Later, Moresco hops ahead to 1963 when Ferruccio (now played by Grillo) runs his own successful tractor company. But he wants more. After being turned down and insulted by Ferrari, Ferruccio decides to get into the luxury car game. He puts together a crack team of engineers and designers who tell him his vision in impossible. But Ferruccio’s zeal is infectious and soon he’s showing the Lamborghini 350 GT at the prestigious Geneva Auto Show. But his desire for greatness keeps driving him, resulting in him becoming one of the most renowned car makers in the world. It also sees him once again alienating those who have loved and stood by him.
I’m sure it all sounds familiar to anyone who has seen a high-profile biopic and for good reason. There is a dramatic turn or two that feels meaningfully personal, and we get a few stretches of car talk that gearheads will probably appreciate. Also, Moresco is more than capable with the camera, capturing some beautiful imagery with a vibrant palette. But the movie is missing what it needs most – personality. It has an interesting subject with an equally interesting life to explore. Sadly, we only get glances of what made Ferruccio Lamborghini a compelling figure.
Grillo, Italy and a Lamborghini, I’m in 2 stars be damned!
Yep. I just wish the movie did more with three wonderful things.
Dangit! But I echo fraggle here, I’m still in.
You could do a lot worse. It’s not a dreadful movie. But it could’ve been so much more.
Dammit. I like Frank Grillo and he’s better than this. Thankfully, Michael Mann is working on that Ferrari bio-pic with Adam Driver. I have faith in Mann.
I do too. And Grillo is good in this. He just doesn’t have the material to work with.
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i watched the movie myself and can personally give 4 stars, i recommend everyone that likes history and cars to watch it for sure!
Really glad you enjoyed it. I did appreciate part of it.