We promised to give you our thoughts on the sim racing movie available now on Prime Video. Here’s our review of The Sim Racer.
Image credit: Chromehorn Media / iRacing
After a long time waiting for the movie to be released, we finally are able to watch The Sim Racer. Written and directed by Brock Drury – who we interviewed – it follows Luke Wallace (played by Roman Boylen), who was once a hopeful racing driver but gave up on his dream. He has just separated from his girlfriend and finds out his house is in danger of being foreclosed unless he can raise $9,600.
In order to get some money fast, he enters into a sim racing competition on iRacing called the World 500 that pays $20,000 to the winner. Competing in Super Late Model NASCAR on the USA International Raceway with a qualifying stage, last chance qualifier and then the all-important final.
But with many sim racing fans scoffing at the idea of the movie, now it’s time to see if their grievances were justified. Here are our thoughts on The Sim Racer and whether it’s worth watching.
Firstly, let’s talk about characters. There are five primary players in the film, but we’ll begin with the main character Luke Wallace who at the start of the film, is said to be a bit of a pushover and too nice of a guy. In stark contrast to Luke is his main on-track rival Shooter Jones (Bradley Harrelson) who is pretty much the pantomime villain of the movie, as he wrecks Luke in the opening race.
By far the most entertaining character of the movie is Luke’s bartending best friend Earl Johnson (Chris Wolfe). His very crude attempts to provide unsolicited life advice may have you laughing, but its probably not wise to heed his words. Even if a metaphor of his at the start of the movie makes a little sense, most of his advice is unsound.
To help with the race, Luke begs his mechanic boss Bootie Burns (Scott Oakley) to be his crew chief. He’s somewhat reluctant, as he’s still troubled by the last time he was involved in running a sim racing team that resulted in the car crashing due to a bad choice on his part and people questioning his capability. Then finally, there’s the love interest of the movie, June Langley (Eli Jo).
They meet by chance but, lo and behold, she’s also into sim racing. What’s more, she’s competing in the same event as Luke. Throughout the movie, it’s a case of “Will they won’t they?” but a past relationship leaves June scared to commit. Their budding romance is the primary aspect of this movie, and that’s something we should probably acknowledge.
If you’re going into this movie expecting just sim racing, you’re going to be disappointed. This is a story about an average and unassuming guy, indulging in his hobby to get some money to prevent his house from being foreclosed. It’s less of a sim racing movie, it’s more a slice of life movie with sim racing involved in it.
But when the sim racing is on screen, it’s really well done as the angles capture the action and make it feel very real and exciting. Plus the terminology familiar to fans of sim racing and NASCAR is all there. One particularly interesting stylistic choice for the movie was having the drivers appear to be in their racecars, rather than just being in their sim rigs. As sim racers, we always clamour for immersion to get as close to the real thing as possible, since we aren’t real life racing drivers.
For the parts that take place in the sim, a minor gripe we have is there’s very little in terms of variety when it comes to setting. What we mean is, all the races (even the opening race that isn’t part of the World 500) are held on the USA International Raceway. Of course, there may be reasons behind the scenes as to why. Maybe they couldn’t afford the licences for some of the more prominent NASCAR tracks like Daytona, Charlotte etc.
Also, whilst we liked the idea of having the drivers appear in their cars, we would have liked to have seen their sim rigs and hardware on show even just briefly. The only hints we are shown of it being a video game is Luke Wallace putting on and removing a VR headset, nothing showing his wheel, pedals and gearstick clamped to a desk for example. Would have been cool for the audience to perhaps see Luke making do with low end hardware, striking a chord with some viewers.
Note: Some minor spoilers ahead
In modern movies today, a lot of them tend to stick to a lot of the same tropes. Many other indie racing movies like The Sim Racer follow them, some examples being the Australian movie Go Karts and also Lady Driver starring Grace van Dien (aka Chrissy Cunningham from Stranger Things).
There’s the overly eager but naive protagonist, reluctant mentor figure, the unpleasant and dirty driving antagonist, deceased father, and so on. If these overly exercised tropes are going to bother you, then The Sim Racer isn’t for you.
One criticism of the movie is that there really are a lot of filler montages featuring Luke and June. They bond initially over their love of odds, then they keep hanging out by doing a lot of trivial stuff and they recite a lot of information we have already had repeated to us. For a movie about racing, it does ironically slow the pace down a bit. This isn’t to say they don’t develop a nice bond, but perhaps what they could have done to sell it more is lean in to their wheel knowledge.
Maybe what they could have done is have them cross paths for the first time in the qualifying race for the World 500. Then by chance, June’s car (a real life one) breaks down close to where Luke lives and he agrees to work on it for her since he is a full time mechanic. They then both realise they’re the same people from the race they were just competing in.
They then spend an extensive period both working on June’s car, and bonding that way. It would be a lot more believable than what we got.
Another element that could have been explored is perhaps Luke’s eagerness to get into real racing. It’s touched upon briefly, and at the end he’s encouraged to actually do so. What they could have had is Luke’s eagerness to race a real racing car and shown both his discontent and bitterness with his life, but his arc could have concluded with him being happy where he is.
His arc in the movie is alright, as he learns to not be a pushover. Although perhaps it could have been stated a bit better at the end, where Luke says that sometimes it’s okay to be a dirty driver.
Should You Watch It?
Ultimately, whilst the movie isn’t perfect or ground-breaking, it’s very enjoyable for a microbudget movie of this sort. It may be found to be derivative and filled with tropes, but it’s a sweet, in the pocket and down to earth story about an average guy who is in to sim racing.
The Sim Racer is a great foundation to build upon for the future of movies centred around sim racing, and it feels somewhat like validation for our niche hobby of driving pretend racecars. With the Gran Turismo movie releasing in August, could these two movies be the springboard for showing off the appeal of racing on video games?
The Sim Racer is available to rent for 3.99/4.99 or buy for 8.99/9.99 now on Prime Video in both the US and UK. The movie lasts 67 minutes, and if you’re a fan of sim racing and looking to fill an hour then The Sim Racer is a very good choice of movie to watch.
What did you think of The Sim Racer? Tell us on Twitter at @OverTake_gg or in the comments down below!