Perhaps the ultimate road movie, Joe Eddy’s biopic of Steve McQueen is a well-constructed look into the life of an actor who lived for fast cars, fast women and box office success. Sadly, none of those would sustain the—at times—bullying, egotistical screen star who never shied away from putting himself first. The inventive opening credits certainly set the stage for an engaging film to follow.
In the lead role, Andre Brooks does a commendable job playing the motorbike/race car enthusiast who has no qualms about walking over (or slapping, in the case of first wife Niele—played with stoic conviction by Augie Duke) the people whose lives depend on his success.
Eddy uses two backstory techniques to both keep the pace moving steadily forward and artfully filling in the blanks. The numerous cuts back to happier times (from posh resorts to a magical dance sequence with roadside pickup, Sula—Alysha Young is superb as the up-and-coming black woman who knows where she is going and how to deliver her name with an extended kiss) provide the narrative details. McQueen’s visits to psychiatrist “Doc X” (done up to a bow tied T by veteran Ed Zajac), allow the darker moments in the celebrity’s life to be seen, heard and felt by many more than just his shrink.
Filling out the cast are Dennis Hall as the “barracuda” agent, Freddie, who has to endure his client’s obsessions with “my film” and getting the next great car (in this case, a Ford Mustang GT 390) and Anthony Dilio’s delightful take on Cuban* President Fulgenico Batista.
Eddy pulls no punches in portraying the once-nominated-for-an-Academy-Award star who states that “power is like a capricious mistress” (bedding more than his share along the way), a heavy drinker, sometime drug user and smoker whose main regret in life seems to be the disaster of what should have most certainly been his film, Le Mans.
The fictional conversation with Dustin Hoffman (discussing roles in Papillon—credibly done up by Jason Slavkin) is a hoot, while the closing coda with “who are you?” budding car mechanic, Rodney (Chantz Simpson) stretches credibility to the breaking point.
Nonetheless, for Steve McQueen fans or those quickly realizing he is not the esteemed British filmmaker, this production is worth seeing as yet another way of understanding that stellar careers in the movies may not be as glamorous and glorious as most believe. JWR
* Note: Just a few hours after this review was published, a thoughtful, helpful reader pointed out that Batista was two-time President of Cuba, where we had originally stated Mexico. We appreciate all input from readers.