There’s a fun biker B-movie buried beneath the cliches and coincidences of “Burn Out.”
It’s not that the motorcycle chase scenes are all that. Because even though it’s French and some of the stunt folks have credits in Luc Besson films, there’s nothing dazzling in the way the footage is shot and edited. The bit right before the closing credits is the best bike stuff in the picture.
And the plot — baby mama gets in trouble with drug dealers, so aspiring motorcycle racer has to smuggle their drugs for them to settle her debt? Nothing special there.
Silly plot contrivances abound, from artificial time limits on drug deliveries (“Don’t stop for toll plazas. Drive THROUGH them!”) to absurd coincidences (a bike parked just where our hero needs it to escape) and there’s little character development, for all the time our hero spends on the screen.
You just know that “one last job” is going to be the one that goes the most wrong, right? Because you’ve seen a few thrillers in your life.
But the movie has a wet-streets-in-the-dark sheen, a seedy take on French housing projects and the sorts of bars, cafes and tattoo parlors mobsters hand out in.
Gregoire Auger delivers a pulse-pounding electronic score.
And the sheer simplicity of it, no background for our hero, Tony (François Civil of “As Above, So Below”). Just fearful recognition of what he has to do, grim acceptance of doing it.
Leyla, played by Manon Azem, is Tony’s big-haired, full-lipped Julia Roberts-backlit ex. They have a little boy together, and Leyla’s made a couple of bad choices that put them in danger. She’s stashed drugs for one gang, and dated a guy who stole them.
Tony may have grown up knowing drug dealers like the African Moussa (Narcisse Mame), but his old friend reminds him that “You grew up in a nice house, not on the streets, Biker Boy (in French, with English subtitles).” He’s not ready to deal with these villains. And Moussa is little help.
“I can’t stop the Gypsies.”
That’s the dynamic here. Tony must drive for the brutish Jordan (Samuel Juoy) and his older boss Miguel (Olivier Rabourdin). They stuff him into a van, drive him to Rotterdam, Antwerp or wherever. Pop him on a bike with a backpack and demand he show up with their cocaine in two hours time at the drop.
“Work two months and we’re quits.”
The deliveries have little visual pop to them, although the logistics of having henchmen standing by with gas for refueling the Ducati he makes these deliveries with, is an interesting touch. The occasional insert of a shot of the speedometer is the main provider of the sense of speed. A few knee-high views taking curves on the track, a lot of back-mounted camera over-the-shoulder shots.
Tony is trying, at 26, to make a race team. And he’s holding down a day job as a forklift driver in a warehouse store.
The Gypsies? They’re in competition with the Arabs and the Africans.
How IS a boy supposed to keep all this straight? When IS a boy supposed to sleep?
The chases are dull. And “Burn Out” takes entirely too long to get to anything truly suspenseful. The third act does have some righteous tension and stylishly-handled violence.
But man, the corn we have to wade through to get to it.
MPAA Rating: TV-MA, drug content, violence
Cast: François Civil, Olivier Rabourdin, Manon Azem, Narcisse Mame and Samuel Juoy.
Running time: 1:41