Directors: Michael Hewitt, Dermot Lavery
Cast: Joey Dunlop, Robert Dunlop
Watch Road online in the UK:
Ever since Senna stunned with its heartbreaking look at the tragic side of F1, there seems to have been a whole starting grid of racing movies ready to drive onto our screens. TT3D introduced audiences to the world of road racing, a sport fraught with even more peril. But danger is a central part of the sport’s appeal, motivating riders as much as it draws viewers. Road follows the most famous bikers of all: the Dunlop family.
Liam Neeson is our guide to their story, his gravelly narration often sounding closer to a quote from Taken than a sensitive observation. “These roads are lined with trees. Lamp posts. Stone walls,” he intones, menacingly. “Formidable objects when travelling at 200 miles per hour.”
Riding these roads are Joey and Robert Dunlop, two brothers determined to win. “Second is just the first loser,” they kid with each other. When one is severely injured, though, the two rivals support each other as much as they compete; a spirit that appears to have passed down to Robert’s sons, William and Michael Dunlop, who race in the shadow of their father’s legacy.
Directors Michael Hewitt and Dermot Lavery dial up the excitement for the races, with helmet, bike and TV footage edited together with exceptional pacing: even sitting at home, you feel the rush of riding the North West 200 or, deadliest of all, the Isle of Man’s famous TT course. But if Road matches Senna for speed, it slips when it comes to subtlety; the pounding music, which accompanies the race sequences, spills over into the vox pops, turning into overtly sentimental piano licks.
As a result, even the most sincere tributes from family and friends occasionally feel trite. In a tale as inspiring as this, where comebacks inspire comebacks and victory seems possible no matter how catastrophic the physical damage, it’s a shame to see that emotion sweve towards voyeurism. Road is a breathtaking depiction of road racing, determination and a love of risk. At times, that love of risk is a little too strong.