The motorcycle chase scenes are the stars of the Spanish drug courier-by-bike thriller “Centaur (Centauro).”
Alex Monner (“A Thief’s Daughter, “”Bajocero”) has the title role. Rafa is a Catalan motocross rider who never-quite-made-the-transition to track racing, thanks to inadequate rides.
He’s got the nerve. He’s so bonded-to-the-bike he could be Motaur, that centaur/motorcycle in American TV ads for bike insurance.
Thirtyish and aging out of the sport, he gets one last chance to try out for a Honda team in Barcelona. Team director Regina (Patricia Vico) believes in him.
But wouldn’t you know it, he shows up to pick up his kid only to find baby mama Natalia (Begoña Vargas) has gotten beaten up and robbed. Seems she was holding some drugs for a dude when other dudes showed up.
Sure, she’s acting all “OVER” him. But Rafa, who isn’t that far removed from the streets himself, finds himself “negotiating” with the Colombian Carlos (Edgar Vittorino) to get her out of her fix.
Next thing he knows, Rafa is racing from the docks of Marseilles to drops in Catalonia, dodging cops on both sides of the French and Spanish border, a “two month” job to repay her debt at night, a forklift operator job on the Barcelona docks by day, and damn — those racing team tryouts against much younger guys.
He’ll need some “help” just staying awake.
“Centaur” hews close to the genre formula — rough guy, trying to be legit, dragged into “the life” by somebody else’s mistake, and not nearly tough enough to fight, threaten or trick his way out of it.
Or is he?
The cast is OK, with Vittorino menace incarnate as Carlos, and Carlos Bardem even scarier as the Colombian’s Spanish lieutenant.
But again, the picture lives or dies on wheels, and the track scenes, with chase cars, drone shots and the like, are terrific. Eventually, the street chases and races measure up, too. Eventually.
It isn’t until the late going — as street protests put Rafa on a dirt bike because riots, police lines and street bonfires or not, that darned cocaine has GOT to get through — that the chases jump to the Next Level.
The script takes its predictable third-act turns, and less predictably and disappointingly, starts copping out and copping out hard well before the final cop-out at the end.
Bikers will pick over the riding sequences more than I would. What I found a letdown was this strictly-formula thriller going soft, just when it was getting mean.
Rating: TV-MA, violence, drug abuse, sex, nudity, profanity
Cast: Àlex Monner, Edgar Vittorino, Begoña Vargas and Patricia Vico.
Credits: Directed by Daniel Calparsoro, scripted by Yann Gozlan. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:29