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Jul 10, 2002

Opinion: 14K The Movie Is Driven On Two Wheels

Copyright 2002, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc.<BR><BR>First Person/Opinion By John Ulrich<BR><BR>I've long had my doubts about the "14K The Movie" project being vigorously promoted in the motorcycle industry by racer Tony Morris. <BR><BR>Perhaps I'm just stupid.<BR><BR>Call me ignorant, but I haven't been able to understand how running a race team in not only the Formula USA Series but also in the WERA National Endurance Series is a viable way to raise money for producing a movie.<BR><BR>And although I may just be dense, I surely do not see what signing up sponsors for those race teams--especially product sponsors--has to do with financing a movie.<BR><BR>And what's up with those bikes running around with 14K The Movie logos on both sides of the fairing? They can't show up on film that way without the project turning into a parody like Space Balls or something, although, given the notable lack of film crews at various events I've seen the bikes run in, there probably is no chance of that happening anyway.<BR><BR>Morris has been successful in obtaining free motorcycles and related products for various riders--including himself--to race under the 14K The Movie banner. How that relates to getting a movie made, I don't know.<BR><BR>What brings this all on is the fact that I have just read the script, forwarded to me by Morris in an apparent attempt to show me that this is a real, serious movie project.<BR><BR>The first personal reaction I have is that while this could possibly be a very entertaining, gripping and dramatic movie for the general public, it will probably make most people involved in motorcycle road racing wince.<BR><BR>It reminds me of my reaction to the movie "Driven", which I saw on an airplane returning from a motorcycle race. I was still staring at the videoscreen and watching the credits when a flight attendant mis-read my look of shock and horror for one of excitement, looked at the Roadracing World logo on my shirt and said "You can probably really relate to that movie, huh?"<BR><BR>For anybody who hasn't seen Driven, it's about an open-wheeled car racing series featuring clips of various actual CART team owners and cars, along with a through-the-public-streets-with-civilian-traffic racecar chase scene, racecars turning around and going counter-race-direction on track, a bunch of weaving and dodging on the banking, a team owner who tells a guy who is winning or finishing second in races that he's washed up, and race action that--like some bad TV commercials I've seen--includes racers who are able to magically speed up and pass other racers upon radio command from their team owners. Man, I wish it was that easy, that races could be won by simply radioing a rider (or driver), "Take him now!" or "Make your move, Tony!"<BR><BR>(I'll pause here to admit that maybe basic technical accuracy is not essential to a movie's success, given as I saw "Top Gun" again on TV the other night. One dogfight scene in that wildly successful movie features fighter jets dodging desert mountain tops and streaking along desert canyons, close to the desert floor. Yet the movie's hero, played by Tom Cruise, then gets in trouble for briefly diving below the dogfight's "hard deck" of 10,000 feet in chasing an instructor, and never mind that no jet in the scene ever looked to be over 10,000 feet. It probably made real fighter pilots wince. And now a guy I know who actually served on a nuclear submarine has informed me that Red October was full of inaccuracies. So obviously movie success doesn't ride on technical accuracy...)<BR><BR>Anyway, in 14K The Movie, we have a street racer who uses a 500cc streetbike to beat a guy on a 1200 in a straight-line run out of the final corner of a street race, then shows up at Willow Springs and immediately is competitive--we're talking lap-record competitive here--and it's more of the same at racetrack after racetrack. A street rider with a couple of actual road races under his belt is instantly racing for the lead with a dirt racer with equally few road races worth of experience. God knows what happened to the dozens of guys with years of experience and good bikes who usually, dare I say it, soundly beat rookie racers who have just showed up off the local canyon road.<BR><BR>In 14K The Movie we have racers kicking each other off the track--literally, using their feet--and guys who run off into the gravel, don't crash, turn around, regain the pavement and are quickly back fighting for the lead. We also have our street-racer-turned-road-racer quickly sponsored to free, race-prepped Suzuki racebikes delivered via Penske rental truck, courtesy of a named-in-the-script, real-life American Suzuki Motor Corp. executive.<BR><BR>14K The Movie has all sorts of Hollywood elements and stereotypical additions to motorcycle road racing--on-track action, fistfights, a love interest with an over-protective father, rental car destruction, food fights, a good guy versus a bad guy, crashes, blood, the street racer finally renouncing street racing as too dangerous, even the "Race Of Champions" getting delayed so the good guy can get out of jail after being framed by the bad guy's evil dad, a thrown race, and, finally, a bad guy becoming a good guy.<BR><BR><BR>Will 14K The Movie be a big Hollywood hit? I suppose it could be, although I've never seen any of the movies said to have been actually produced by the guys said to be actually involved in this one.<BR><BR>Will 14K The Movie transform motorcycle road racing into the next great thing in American culture? Will this movie make motorcycle racing as popular as car racing in the United States? Is this project the key to future success and economic prosperity for everybody in the motorcycle industry?<BR><BR>I don't see it happening.<BR><BR>But I look at it this way: At least some real racers--I'm thinking of Eric and Jeff Wood here--got to ride free bikes built with free stuff, courtesy of 14K The Movie. They're deserving guys, competitive guys, guys who sweated and strained and struggled over the course of, oh, maybe 10 years, to get to the point where they could win Formula USA races. And if it took 14K The Movie to get them the type of serious sponsorship help they've long deserved, at least some good has come out of this, and never mind if 14K The Movie never shows up at a theater (or in a video store) near you.<BR><BR>In the meantime, again, the big question in my mind--and forgive my ignorance for asking--is, what does getting free bikes and free stuff and using those free bikes and that free stuff to run at least two race teams have to do with raising money to produce a movie? Why try to raise movie money from the motorcycle industry in the first place, instead of from the same Hollywood types who funded Driven and Top Gun and Red October and a whole slew of motorcycle-themed movies? If it's all about raising awareness and publicity, why run in two non-televised racing series? I just don't get it, and again, forgive my ignorance, I may just be dense.<BR><BR>And again, all of this is just my personal opinion, and I could be completely wrong...