Dust to Glory

The Baja 1000 is one of those things that must be seen to be believed. Every year, racers from around the world gather in Baja California, Mexico for a raucous, twenty-four hour race that encompasses motorcycles, trucks, ATVs, and even souped-up Volkswagen Beetles. Unlike other races, this one takes place in the middle of traffic. Spectators gather perilously close to the roads to watch, and sometimes need to dodge the vehicles as they zip past. Dana Brown, who directed surfing films like Step Into Liquid and The Endless Summer 2, wanted to pull a Stacey Peralta and move into a different "extreme" sport. Dust to Glory accurately captures the disparate personalities and grueling nature of the Baja 1000, but digs so much into the details that it fails to give a "big picture" view of events.

Brown literally floods the screen with legends, competitors, and their friends and families. He wants to present the race through the eyes of its competitors, and tell each of their stories. A compelling story is a must if Brown wants to grab the attention of non-fans. There are ordinary people who just like going really fast. There are so many characters introduced that it is easy to get lost amidst the race. Unfortunately, this relegates the movie to preexisting fans, who are already familiar with the contestants. People unfamiliar with the race will quickly lose themselves trying to remember the various teams and team members. Brown should have kept the focus on a few people, like Mike "Mouse" McCoy. Most teams have multiple riders that each take a leg of the race. McCoy was attempting to do the entire race himself on a motorcycle. He is ruggedly handsome and occupies most of the screen time already, so it wouldn't have hurt Brown to focus some more on him. As it is, Brown also spotlights the Roberts family (father and son are racing), Hawaiian racer Alan Pflueger, NASCAR favorite Robby Gordon, and more.

One obvious feeling that emerges is that everybody is having fun. Although they are competing against each other, many have been friends for years. The Baja 1000 is a race, but it's also a bonding experience. Through the years, luminaries like Steve McQueen and James Garner participated. This particular year, Mario Andretti made an appearance. As the film progresses, the spirit if fun is replaced with that of competition, and here is where Dust to Glory falters. Because Brown is following so many racers, the camera constantly switches to update where each person is. It really breaks the momentum, especially since some of the contestants fall pretty far behind. Every time Brown builds up suspense with one racer, he switches to another, and then waits too long before returning. There is some spectacular footage from helicopters, chase cars, and even helmet mounted cameras, but Brown needs to better job of editing all together and tightening the focus. As it stands, Dust to Glory is a little too scattered, and because of this, tends to drag in places. This is not good for a movie about racing. Worse, at times it plays like a commercial for next year's race.

Mongoose Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 38 minutes, Rated PG for racing action and peril, and for some language.

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