Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Owen Trevor

Stars: William Lodder, Richard Roxburgh, Frances O’Connor, Anastasia Bampos, Cooper van Grootel, Darius Amarfio Jefferson, Dan Wyllie, Damian de Montemas.

Richard Roxburgh and William Lodder in Go! (2020)

This genial, feel good and crowd-pleasing family friendly local drama is a slightly derivative underdog story set against the backdrop of go-kart racing.

Fifteen-year old Jack (played by newcomer William Lodder in his film debut) has moved to Busselton, a small dusty town in Western Australia, with his widowed mother Christie (Frances O’Connor), looking to make a fresh start after the death of his father. While she opens up a fruit and vegetable shop in the main shopping strip Jack is drawn to the local go-kart track. Although he has never really driven a go-kart before he shows a natural aptitude, and catches the eye of the gruff and reclusive Patrick (Richard Rozburgh), who runs the track.

Patrick is a former racing champion who has withdrawn from public life. He is surly and terse and dealing with the demons of his own past, but recognises Jack’s innate talent. He becomes a reluctant mentor and father figure to Jack, teaching him the skills necessary to compete in a national competition in exchange for working around the track. Patrick hones Jack’s natural talent and tries to rein in his impulsive behaviour.

Jack also befriends talented local mechanic Mandy Zeta (newcomer Anastasia Bampos), whose brother Dean (Cooper van Grootel, from Jasper Jones, etc) is the local champion. Dean is also arrogant and something of a bully, and Mandy is largely ignored by him and her father, who heads a car racing firm and doesn’t take her too seriously. And Jack also arranges a romance between his mother and the lonely and socially awkward local constable Barry (Dan Wyllie, who provides some welcome comic relief).

This charming if slightly cliched film has been written by Steve Worland, who also penned the similarly charming Paper Planes, and it follows a well-established template of other notable underdog stories, The Karate Kid in particular seems a big influence. But it delivers some positive messages concerning following your dreams, family, overcoming grief, respecting your elders, and gender roles.

Go! has been directed in workmanlike fashion by Australian filmmaker Owen Trevor, who helmed the UK version of popular tv series Top Gear between 2008-12. Making his feature directorial debut here, Trevor draws upon that experience to shape the exciting go-kart racing sequences.

Trevor draws good performances from his young, largely unknown cast. Lodder brings plenty of charm to his performance as the larrikin Jack and his screen presence is enough to suggest that he could have a big future in movies. Bampos brings a feisty quality to her performance. Darius Amarfio Jefferson is also good and provides plenty of comic relief with his solid performance as Colin, a local teen who becomes Jack’s new best friend and helps him achieve his ambition of winning the national go-kart championship. Roxburgh is good as the grizzled, world weary Patrick who is a Mr Miyagi like character with his chosen methods of training Jack. O’Connor is also good as Jack’s supportive mother, although her character is a little under-developed.

The film has been nicely shot on location by Peter Eastgate, who captures the stark beauty of this dusty small town. He brings plenty of energy to the go-kart racing scenes, and the use of helmet cam puts us right in the thick of the action. A great soundtrack also helps to bolster the energy.

 It’s a predictable underdog story but there is more than enough here to satisfy its target audience.


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