1980's "Silver Dream Racer" is an obvious product of the "Rocky" craze. Starring rock star David Essex (who really should have stuck to the singing) and occasionally Beau Bridges, it's your standard underdog tale, substituting boxing for motorcycle racing and thrills for a handful of incredibly vapid scenes that say as little as they do. Nearly two hours after it begins, I can guarantee only two things will be burnt into your memory for all eternity: the film's ending (touted here as being writer/director David Wickes' original vision) and the film's incredibly catchy, corny theme song written and performed by Essex himself.
Essex is Nick Freeman, a relatively whiny, not so remarkable motorcycle rider, constantly in the shadow of rival Bruce McBride (Bridges). Fortunately for Nick, his brother kicks the bucket and as a result, into Nick's hands falls an amazing new motorcycle with a frame made of carbon fiber and full of potential. I'm sure in 1980 this glorified plot device was meant to wow audiences, but 30 years in the future it falls victim to looking tacky and cheap, much like the film itself. Wickes' script and direction leave much to be desired and as quickly as he builds the film towards Nick using the bike in the World Motorcycle Championship, he grinds it to a halt, because, well, a movie has to be longer than an hour.
For the most part, "Silver Dream Racer" is an uninspired, but inoffensive underdog story, hitting all the major genre points well. Nick is the underdog, McBride is the cocky rival, Julie (Cristina Raines) is the female in the middle of it all, and Cider (Clarke Peters of "The Wire") is the memorable mentor, serving as Nick's chief mechanic and voice of reason. Of course, Nick is a free spirit and unable to decide whether he wants the love of a woman or the thrill of victory, ambles through the movie, culminating in a climatic 15-minute, semi-exciting race finale. However, we the audience have to endure Essex's laughable approach to this character and that is the true trial of the film. When he's not blankly disheveled, Essex weakly makes it through scenes, often muttering his lines ensuring at times no one knows what is going on. The flat performance makes it nearly impossible to care about him and on the flip side, Bridges' one-note take on the antagonist role reminds us why his brother is an Oscar winner and still in heavy demand.
For those who follow the predictable story to the end will be in for a shock at the ending, as Wickes tries to tie everything up with a bold statement that will leave you speechless for a number of reasons. If you think about it, the film's final moments will vaguely connect the themes Wickes was going for, but the execution is so sloppy and jarring, that "Silver Dream Racer" is more likely to be remembered as a punch line than the mediocre, paint-by-numbers underdog tale it is.
The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is a mess. Looking like it was sourced from a VHS, colors are reasonably natural, contrast is higher than desired, and detail is barely existent. Digital noise is definitely a noteworthy issue, giving the whole image an odd worn out look. If it weren't for the original aspect ratio presentation, I'd venture to say you could find a better transfer from a cable broadcast.
The English 2.0 audio track suffers from dialogue often being lower than effects or the score. Add to this Essex's habit of muttering and the movie can be a chore to follow in a few scenes. The race sequences show the most life adding a genuine level of atmosphere, while the very catchy (and out of place) musical score is bound to get your toe tapping.
The lone extra is the U.S. ending of the film, which changes the tone of the film 180°.
If it weren't for the film's ending, "Silver Dream Racer" would be quickly forgotten the moment you ejected the disc from your player, but I can say without reservation, I'll never forget it. David Essex is a terrible leading man and his second-rate performance fits in nicely with the second rate production value of the film. Give it a rent, but expect nothing new or original. The shoddy technical presentation sure doesn't add to the value of the disc. Rent It.