Review: An Oversimplified View of an Iconic Carmaker’s Life and Work in Lamborghini: The Man Behind the Legend

For those who didn’t get their fill of Americans doing Italian accents watching House of Gucci, allow me to present Lamborghini: The Man Behind the Legend, a relatively short film about auto inventor Ferruccio Lamborghini, who began life as the son of a farmer, went into the military during World War II, and came out a mechanical genius who went on to create a newer, less expensive tractor that revolutionized farming in Italy. Eventually he became interested in cars, and in 1963, he created Automobili Lamborghini, a maker of high-end sports cars in Sant’Agata Bolognese. Frank Grillo does his best with the material he’s given to play Lamborghini, but the film severely undercuts the actor’s ability to create a true character study.

Barely scratching the surface about the elements of his upbringing and his life that motivated Lamborghini, writer/director Bobby Moresco (Bent) instead tends to emphasize Lamborghini’s attraction to women, his obsession with building the perfect car, his rivalry with Enzo Ferrari (Gabriel Byrne), and his tendency to push those around him to work harder and better than even they think possible. The only stirring moments occur early on, when young Lamborghini (Romano Reggiani) falls in love with his first wife Clelia (Hannah van der Westhuysen), who dies while giving birth to their only son, Tonino. It doesn’t take him long before he finds another beautiful woman to marry, Annita (played young by Chiara Primavesi, older by Oscar-winner Mira Sorvino). But as the pair get older, Ferruccio is less cautious about his affairs, and Annita isn’t happy with it. Time and again, the film shows how Lamborghini was willing to sacrifice any relationship—with his best friend Matteo (Matteo Leoni), with his second wife—all in the name of making his cars examples of the most perfect in existence, both in terms of quality and aesthetics. The results speak for themselves in both arenas.

Honestly, I would have much rather watched a detail-oriented documentary about Lamborghini that did a little bit more than simply say “He loved bullfighting, so he made a wild bull the logo of his car company.” Unlike the vehicles, there’s nothing particularly special about the movie covering much of Lamborghini’s life, and that may be because this is a family-sanctioned affair and all of the icky (but far more interesting) portions of his life have been excised. About the only part of the movie that matches the coolness of a Lamborghini car are the vintage cars themselves, which appear to be in pristine condition and are the definition of elegance both inside and out. I wish I could say the same about this barely-there film.

Lamborghini: The Man Behind the Legend is now playing in select theaters, and available on demand.

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Steve Prokopy
Steve Prokopy

Steve Prokopy is chief film critic for the Chicago-based arts outlet
Third Coast Review. For nearly 20 years, he was the Chicago editor for
Ain’t It Cool News, where he contributed film reviews and
filmmaker/actor interviews under the name “Capone.” Currently, he’s a
frequent contributor at /Film (SlashFilm.com) and Backstory Magazine.
He is also the public relations director for Chicago's independently
owned Music Box Theatre, and holds the position of Vice President for
the Chicago Film Critics Association. In addition, he is a programmer
for the Chicago Critics Film Festival, which has been one of the
city's most anticipated festivals since 2013.

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