Imagine yourself sitting atop a motorcycle, senses fried over the past 14 hours of straight racing. You are burning down some unnamed Mexican beach at 110 miles per hour when your vision focuses on a rock that seems to be moving like a crab. You swerve to miss Sebastian but in doing so you lose control of your bike. Suddenly you taste the cold, wet all-you-can-eat bar of sandy beach down as it slides down your gullet. As you lie there helpless as the day you were born, you think, “Why am I doing this again?” The only answer that pops into your consciousness is you knew the risks when you signed up for the Baja 1000, which happens to be the subject of Dana Brown’s latest film.
“Dust to Glory” is a documentary about 2004’s Baja 1000. The world-famous race is the longest continuous competition in auto racing history. Brown, whose father Bruce Brown made the “Endless Summer” movies, wrote and directed this adrenaline-pumping film. The movie focuses on teams and crews from each of the different vehicle categories. The goal is that by following a few teams, the director could then create some kind of narrative. It does not seem that Dana shares the same talents as his old father Bruce did.
The concept is simple enough: A bunch of yahoos posing as racers drive their machines from point A to point B. “Yahoos” would be the correct term. If there is one thing this film accomplishes better than anything else, it is explaining that the Baja 1000 could very possibly kill those who dare to race in it. The film’s main storyline follows that of Mike “Mouse” McCoy. McCoy attempts to make the 1,000-mile trip from Ensenada to La Paz on a motorcycle completely solo. On the other end of the spectrum is the corporate-sponsored team of Robby Gordon. Gordon drives in the most competitive class of pro-truck. Other stories include that of a Mexican team that makes the trip in an original unmodified VW Beetle. The structure for the film is in place, so you think you will sit back and watch who turns out to be the winner. “Psych!” Boring commentary and pointless interviews with people who don’t even race stall out the film worse than sugar in the old gas pipe. Interestingly, this is the same problem that Brown’s other film, “Step Into Liquid” had. Rather than build up the story and create some excitement, the movie regresses into a bunch of “dudes” talking about how awesome and dangerous the race is. Yawn. Is this the same movie? Show some more crashes or something. On the plus side, the aerial shots of the race as well as the multitude of points of view aboard some of the teams prove tensely exciting. The best sequence comes when two racers from Team Honda have at each other along one stretch of the Baja peninsula. Just as the film begins to have a pulse, it flat lines into another interview with… who cares. Eventually, the race ends and all the happiness and heartbreak from racers and families alike provide the film with its predictable ending.
This film does some good things and some bad things. Visually this movie is quite competent and succeeds in bringing the drama of this race to life. If not for the interviews or endless panoramic shots of the mountains and dried riverbeds that make up the course, this would be awesome. If you have 99-octane fuel pumping through your veins and know what IROC stands for, then this is your movie. If not, maybe you should check the surf report and hang ten. Dude.