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Review: BØRNING (2014)

When you think of Norway, many things come to mind. Vikings, polar bears, maybe even flocks of parrots pinning for the fjords. But you really don’t think of car movies. Well, you can now thanks to Børning, a film about road racing and fatherhood.

Børning starts off with a dedication to the late Hal Needham. He was the famed stuntman turned director who gave us Smokey and the Bandit, The Cannonball Run and Hooper among other films. That won points with me right away. Then it takes off with our hero Roy (Anders Baasmo Christiansen, In Order Of Disappearance, Kon-Tiki) getting into a road race with his pregnant girlfriend in the car. Thanks to the intervention of a semi and a police speed trap, he ends up flipping his car. Everyone is ok, but he is taken off to jail and his girlfriend deserts him.

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Børning picks up many years later, Roy owns an auto parts store and is still obsessed with racing. On the eve of a big race, his ex drops their daughter Nina (Ida Husøy) off with him unexpectedly. He, of course, wants no part of this and does his best to ignore the poor girl despite her best efforts to get his attention. Finally, she resorts to sabotaging his car.

This sets up the film’s main plot, an illegal road race from one end of Norway to the other between Roy and his rival TT (Trond Halbo) and a host of other oddball characters. Of course, Roy still has his daughter with him. Along the way, they begin to bond and Roy learns a thing or two about being a father. And about growing up in general.

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If you’re thinking that Børning is The Cannonball Run with subtitles, you’re not far off. This is much more in the style of Needham’s 1980s classics than more modern gearhead fare such as The Transporter or the Fast and Furious franchise. The one big difference is that while Burt Reynolds was always a likable leading man in Needham’s films, Roy starts the film off as an unlikeable jerk. The cops trying to bust the racers are more likeable than he is.

And while this is necessary to set up the story, it risks losing the viewer at the start. Thankfully, the script keeps us interested despite the uncharismatic lead, and we do care what happens between Roy and Nina and hope he will redeem himself. And over the course of Børning, he does, leading to an ending that’s satisfying if not entirely unexpected.

But of course, the main attraction here are the cars. And Børning does not let the viewer down there either. There are all manner of fast cars on display, from Roy’s vintage Mustang to TT’s Japanese tuner and everything in between. And there’s some great stunt work, which seems to have been done for real. No CGI involved. A leap off a cliff onto the back of a moving flatbed truck is a particular highlight.

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This was the directorial debut for Hallvard Braein, probably best known as the cinematographer on Troll Hunter, and he handles it well. He has a firm grasp on both the action sequences and the human elements of Børning. He brings them together as a satisfying whole, not making the drama seem grafted onto the action elements.

Børning is an action-comedy with a heart. An enjoyable film that doesn’t let its serious side bring down the fun. Or let the vehicular mayhem overwhelm the film’s human side. There’s been a sequel and another due next year, I need to catch up with them. There is a Facebook page here if you understand Norwegian.

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