The plot for Redline is simple. Cars go fast. Lots of money is spent gambling on who can go faster. Any other plot or character information is irrelevant and extraneous. Redline is about racing, pure and simple.
The number one thing you’d hope for in a racing movie would be good racing sequences. Redline has those in spades. The movie knows how to lay out its races and keep things interesting, finding a good mix between quick cuts and extended shots. The cars look hot and move fast, although a time or two the illusion is broken and the cars don’t appear to be moving anywhere near as fast as their speedometers tell us. The editing also brings in some continuity problems, such as the appearing/disappearing camera copter that plagues several of the races. These are minor issues though, and don’t detract from the fun of watching fast cars go really fast.
Obviously the filmmakers knew this was the strength of the film, so the first half of the movie has very little development to it. Once we get past an initial monologue to set up the character archetypes, everything in the first half is either a race or a scene setting up the reason for the next race. Come to think of it, even the monologue has a race in the middle. Racing is what the movie does well, and for half the picture that’s where they keep their focus.
Unfortunately, the second half of the picture is not quite as focused. The movie slows down as it attempts to set up conflicts between characters and establish motivations for everyone for the final race – the race that, by natural progression, has to be the biggest thing in the movie. Unfortunately, the setup for the race makes the movie feel like sort of a porno – we’re not here for the acting, which is about on par with a porno flick. We’re here for the racing, and the movie can’t get to the good stuff fast enough. This is about fast cars and good looking women (and, I suppose, a few men). Who cares about acting?
That’s not to say the acting is all bad. It just isn’t very good. Truly talented actors like Tim Matheson and Angus Macfadyen are lost here, playing one-dimensional gamblers. Matheson’s gambler always wins, and Macfadyen’s Michael is just way out there. Neither character is explored very deeply, although that’s fine because that would take away from the racing. Eddie Griffin is great at delivering his character’s one-liners, but that’s because he’s Eddie Griffin. I’m going to be completely chauvinistic here and state that Nadia Bjorlin is one of the hottest starlets to appear on screen this year. She looks exotic and is definitely a sign of the movie’s target audience of teenage boys. Lucky for the studio, she’ll bring in the thirty year old men as well. Acting, however… well, the subplot that involves her dead father (who was killed in a race) is pointless, other than attempting to give her added motivation for the final race. She’s just not believably wrapped up in her father’s death. But she is great to look at, so who cares about her character’s motivation?
Redline is the perfect example of cinema eye candy. The movie is easy on the eyes between the attractive cast and entertaining races. When it tries for anything else, the movie falls flat and drags. I wouldn’t even put Redline on the same level with the Fast and the Furious franchise, which achieves a little bit of depth to some of its characters. This is just out and out racing fun. Anything else is unnecessary and takes away from the main focus of the movie.