Ramblin' Racer Film Review @ Brisbane International Film Festival 2021

  • Written by 
  • Wednesday, 27 October 2021 13:57
'Ramblin' Racer' 'Ramblin' Racer'

Screening at the Brisbane International Film Festival 2021, ‘Ramblin’ Racer’ has the appeal of local boys done good.


The audacity of big dreams and the courage to chase after them, are at the core of the tale of construction manager Tim Boyle and best mate accountant Phil Robinson. Sitting on the couch watching Bathurst for the umpteenth time they got it into their heads, “Hey, maybe we should have a crack at that?”.

Often that is where the story might end but not with these two. Soon they had purchased two Holden Geminis and gone to work rebuilding them from scratch. Both men reflect if they had their time again, they probably wouldn’t have done this, but this helps invest the viewer in their journey. We see the time, hard work and utmost care they put into these cars to get them on to the racing track. We also see a lack of ego from the pair, as they soak up knowledge from other amateur racers like sponges, prepared to learn and continually challenge themselves.

Tim with steely blue eyes, a competitive edge and childlike joy is the obvious star, but Phil offers an interesting foil as a more contemplative figure. While the film paints them as just two average Aussie blokes, questions go unanswered of how successful they are in their chosen professions. Whether that was able to fund these ambitious goals. Maybe there is a parallel between the drive to succeed in their careers and the drive to win in racing? Because winning is what they started to do, enough for Tim to drive V8 Utes in Supercar Championships. If this was a hobby taken up due to a mid-life crisis it has become a pursuit that has gone on for more than a decade with many highs and lows, and a few close calls.

RamblinRacer QandA
Post-film Q&A. L-R: Phil Robinson, Tim Boyle, writer/director Neil McGregor, editor Navaz Illava and film academic Ruari Elkington - Image © Lloyd Marken

Racers will understand how the sport gets its hooks into you and won’t let go. ‘Ramblin’ Racer’ alas does not dig a little deeper into the psyche of these two men and their quest. It does, however, capture their friendship, the emotional rollercoaster of racing cars competitively and the unlikely journey these two men made to compete in the Gold Coast 600.

Director Neil McGregor, who used to work for Tim and has gone on to work on mega blockbusters like ‘Deadpool’ and ‘Godzilla’, creates a low-key charm. Most of the documentary is old home footage, shot in garages and over weekends spent at the racetracks with the pair. Yet with some well-placed cameras and strong editing, he captures the scope of a crash or the visceral thrill of coming through a turn at high speed.

Watching the film, you understand Tim and Phil’s ambition, you root for them to succeed and you like them personally. That certainly meets the brief for the genre, but it does leave some questions frustratingly unanswered. True to form, ‘Ramblin’ Racer’ does not streak past the finish line with high production values and defined story beats, it offers something a little different from that.

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