Space Riders (1984)
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The movie opens with ultra-dramatic, super-slow-motion shots of racing motorcycles, leaned over hard in a turn, two and three abreast. Obviously, this is real racing footage, and it's downright breathtaking. But then we switch to staged footage of Barry's motorcycle, obviously strapped bolt upright to the bed of a camera truck. My hope of uncovering a hidden film treasure quickly fades. What follows, unsurprisingly, is the most unconvincingly faked motorcycle crash stunt ever filmed ("unsurprisingly" because, for those not familiar with motorcycle racing history, the former champ actually did suffer a horrific and widely-publicized crash a year or so before the filming of Space Riders.) From there, the film quickly becomes confusingly jumbled. It jumps between grainy stock footage of real Grand Prix races, "movie of the week"-caliber scenes featuring Barry, and subtitled scenes of unknown Japanese businessmen, always talking about having the best and fastest motorcycle in the world. In one such scene we discover that they are assured racing victories by seemingly having just invented the clutch lever. Later, after teammate Yamashta crashes while hallucinating that a Samurai is chasing him on another bike, his wife expresses her grief by sobbing uncontrollably...while repeatedly doing wheelies up and down pit row.
The real racing footage is, well, realistic, but also really confusing, because the audience never knows which bike is supposed to be whose. Also, the producers must not have purchased the rights to ENOUGH footage; the same shots get used over and over.
The story is tied together through minutes-long voice-overs of an unseen "track announcer" who captures the realism of an excruciatingly boring announcer by mumbling and stumbling. But listen close; he's telling you the entire plot. Much easier than actually acting it out, don't you think? Thankfully, the film eventually uses the clearly understandable Spinning Newspapers Device to let us know the race results. Yes, really; it's THAT cliché.
The biggest disappointment of this movie is the fact that there is so little of Barry in it. Of the 93 minutes this movie lasts, Barry is on-screen for only 18 minutes; all the rest is racing footage and other actors. On camera, Sheene displays the sincere yet breezy confidence that endeared him to the public. In a better movie, he could have been a very enjoyable dramatic actor. The only scene in which Sheene seemed awkward and ill-at-ease was the final "championship" podium interview. Barry seemed uncomfortable pretending he'd won a contest that he really hadn't. Or perhaps I just felt uncomfortable for him. A documentary of Barry Sheene's struggle to race competitively in 1983 would be a much more interesting film, and a much more fitting legacy.