Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Burnout (1979)

Sadly, this isn’t a character study of a Jim Ignatowski-style drug casualty, since the title stems from another use of the term “burnout.” Apparently, in the world of high-stakes drag racing, a “burnout” is a pre-race ritual during which drivers rev their wheels in order to get the treads hot for improved traction. Said ritual is shown in this film about 10 zillion times. Also repeated endlessly are shots of blue methane jets sparking from engine blocks, parachutes deploying after races are completed, and, of course, top-fuel dragsters blasting down tracks at speeds in excess of 200 miles per hour. Burnout seems very much like a movie that was constructed around available footage, either because the filmmakers got access to a vault of racing shots or because they got permission to film a season’s worth of high-test action. However it came together, Burnout is vapid in the extreme. A good 60 percent of the movie comprises generic racing scenes that the filmmakers try to enliven with voiceover in the form of play-by-play commentary. The remainder of the film tells the uninteresting story of a spoiled rich kid from California named Scott. who decides for no special reason to become a drag racer. (The character is lifelessly portrayed by Mark Schneider, star of yet another vehicular dud, 1977’s Supervan.) Scott’s dad buys him a custom-made car, but Scott washes out in his first race, so he abandons the car and takes a job on a pit crew, eventually subbing for a driver during a big race. Give or take a few details, that’s the whole plot, and it’s delivered by way of laughably emotionless acting. Offering nothing in the way of characterization or dramatic stakes, Burnout will appeal only to those with a fetish for drag racing, but even those viewers are likely to get bored after a while.

Burnout: LAME


Unknown said...

On that note, I'm interested to get your eventual take on the 1974 documentary-feature "Funny Car Summer."

Tommy Ross said...

I believe I have this one in a set called "Savage Cinema" with 7 other cosmic treats, of which Burnout is one of the...yep, lamest. To Alan, Funny Car Summer, put out by API, I dig it and also the doc Death Machines and if you can find it The Devil At Your Heels about the Canadian version of Evel Knievel, Mr Ken Carter himself;-)

Unknown said...

I have FCS on DVD. I remember as a kid seeing the TV spots for it in the summer of '74. My folks wouldn't let me go, even though it was rated G. Fortunately, I did get to see it at the drive-in the following summer. It was co-feature to another documentary, "The Outer Space Connection."