Netflixable? Love and Motorcycles and a Turkish “UFO”

UFO” is a cheerfully cheesy, sometimes sappy and always formulaic teen romance from the “bad boys on bikes” school.

It’s a Turkish drama that immerses us in the two-wheeled stunts and scofflaws culture of an unnamed Turkish city (Adana), brings in a romance between a college-bound singer torn between the rich kid with the fancy bike and the punk with “UFO” painted on his, and folds in underground races, stolen bikes and bike parts, Turkish justice and ways to elude it.

And damned if it doesn’t toe the line just shy of “tolerable” before going completely to hell in the finale.

Ese (Mert Ramazan Demir) has just gotten out of the army and leaps right back into motorcycle daredevilry with his mate Gokhan ( Kerem Alp Kabul) — feet on the handlebars, driving on his belly, all captured for videos celebrating the feats of Kartal Motor, the struggling family bike shop.

Ipek Filiz Yazici plays Deniz, the fetching blonde burying her singing ambition to get into a good college in Istanbul and rescue her mother from an unhappy marriage.

Events conspire to throw them together. The roadblock the Kartal kids sets up for illegal motorcycle street stunting blocks the SUV Deniz is in with her dad. Then Ese and Gokhan crash a graduation party for rich-boy-with-a-pricey-bike Cenk (Mekin Sezer).

A showdown is set-up but barely followed-through on, “the girl” has to choose which guy to give the eye to, and somebody has to observe “It’s the rider, not the bike” (in English, or Turkish with subtitles).

Because those are the rules when you’re making a bike-racing romance.

Ese’s extended family and the friends who help with the shop make a most promising “Fast and Furious” milieu for director Onur Bilgetay‘s film. The grit and grime and too-familiar-with-the-justice-system vibe of the family, which includes the sisters, mothers and fiances of the menfolk who know just who to call the next time the lads get arrested, has a lived-in quality to the banter and relationships.

The bike-racing scene is too-thinly developed, but it has one great piece of slang that biker culture the world over should adapt. A UFO on a bike is an “unidentified forgotten object,” as in the guy you leave behind in the dust when you’re racing him.

The Ese-Deniz romance is all courtship montages, musical interludes and “He’s just a poor boy” and “She’s just a rich girl” strife.

But one early step in the making of a genre piece like this seems mostly skipped-over by our director and his screenwriter, Meryem Gültabak. You should familiarize yourself with other films in the genre just to see what works and what you can’t afford to leave out.

The leads have decent chemistry and one of the chases is pretty well-handled. But the bike-racing stuff is seriously third-rate, decades behind what Hollywood and Europe deliver. The motorcycles are similarly underwhelming, very Vietnamese Third World dirt bike.

Every time the picture loses track of the greasy chain and blown motors milieu of the shop, the racers, their priorities and seat-of-the-pants lives, it stops cold.

Not giving your movie visible, fleshed-out foes to battle — the cops waiting to “catch you in the act,” the bank that wants to repo the shop, the rich kid powerful enough to cause them problems, their racing opponents in the coming “big race” (which isn’t that “big” and SERIOUSLY lame) — makes it fall short long before that bizarre, dopey, “Dead Man’s Curve” finale.

Which is where “UFO,” as I said, goes completely to hell.

Rating: TV-MA, profanity

Cast: Ipek Filiz Yazici, Mert Ramazan Demir, Kerem Alp Kabul

Credits: Directed by Onur Bilgetay, scripted by Meryem Gültabak. A Netflix release.

Running time: 1:50

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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