Ferrari review: What was the point?

Jasmine Valentine
Adam Driver in FerrariNeon/STX Entertainment

Director Michael Mann might have laid down the action genre gauntlet when it came to his 1995 film Heat, but 28 years later he’s undoubtedly missed the mark with his latest movie Ferrari.

It’s an astonishing change from Mann’s previous credits. To this day, viewers describe Heat as one of their favorite movies of all time, filled with stellar performances, shrewd dialogue, and details that meant the film naturally defied the genre it fits into. Sadly Ferrari falls short on all three counts.

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The film tells the story of Enzo Ferrari (Adam Driver), a former racing driver who loved what he did so much that he turned it into his livelihood after he retired, running a company that’s trying to get off the ground commercially at the same time as dominating the racing track. The collateral damage falls in the lap of business partner and often estranged wife Laura (Penelope Cruz), who manages the company’s finances.

An obvious pun that Ferrari is a car crash isn’t just too good to miss out on, it’s an accurate assessment. It frequently feels as though there is little to gain from the way Enzo Ferrari’s life is represented, meandering through a set number of years with little repercussions or emotional engagement. If Enzo himself saw the pacing and strategy for the film, he’d tell it to buck its ideas up and drive like hell instead.

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Masculine filmmaking misses the mark

For those who appreciate Michael Mann’s undoubtedly impressive body of work, the descriptor “masculine” is something that continues to circle around his films. Masculinity and machismo are both heavily present in Ferrari – as expected given the subject matter – but not even the typical tropes of high-speed car crashes, chases, and one-sided love affairs do anything to give the movie some much-needed weight. Two of the pivotal car crash scenes in question have CGI that is so noticeable and badly utilized that the only reaction that is fitting to have is laughter. Meanwhile, Driver’s Enzo takes the cinematic chaos in through a steely sunglass gaze, leaving viewers wondering whether he actually cares about any of this at all.

A bad workman might blame his tools, and Ferrari’s repetitive use of bumbling dialogue could easily be shouldered by a theater screen’s acoustics. This isn’t to say that performance is the issue here either – everyone apart from Shailene Woodley (who absently-mindedly veers toward Italian when it’s supposed she is in fact American) hits their marks and does their jobs effectively. It comes as no surprise that Cruz is the top dog here, delivering the only real bout of emotion in a scorned wife who is still mourning the loss of her only child.

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What does Enzo Ferrari’s life offer audiences?

Adam Driver in FerrariNeon/STX Entertainment

The brutal answer is not much. Plot is the main issue for Ferrari, which has fallen through the cinematic cracks under the guise of a biopic. It’s not enough to present a fairly well-known name’s life as a narrative in itself – it has to have a hook that drives the action forward. Bradley Cooper’s upcoming Leonard Bernstein biopic Maestro is a perfect example of how to get this right, immediately establishing that his film is driven by Bernstein’s marriage in its opening scene. Here, the story is a total free-for-all, veering between the success of Ferrari as a company, Enzo’s train wreck of a personal life, and the success and well-being of his driving team.

None of these narrative threads are finished with any sense of conclusion or satisfaction. Just as Enzo refinds his feet as a dad, the film abruptly ends, having failed to be presented with any repercussions for a racing crash that killed nine bystanders – including five children. Instead, audiences are presented with an unrealistic yet hideously gruesome aftermath of the crash, complete with bodies cut in half, gouging eyes, and headless corpses. The scene serves as an accurate reminder that Ferrari misses the mark on intention, compassion, and even the slightest handle on emotion (with the exception of Cruz), favoring the supposed masculinity of engines and speedy racing to make up for what’s missing.

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Ferrari review score: 1/5

Adam Driver had a rough time after the release of House of Gucci, and he’s certainly going to have a rough time with the release of his second foray into Italia, Ferrari.

Mann has essentially created a movie that is missing so many components of what something needs in order to be a film that it’s unsurprising that his creative car is running on empty. Any viewer should do themselves a favor and retreat to binging the glory days of Heat as an alternative this Christmas. Michael… you are fantastic, just not this time.

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Ferrari will premiere in cinemas on December 25, 2023. Check out more of our movies & TV content here.

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About The Author

Jasmine Valentine is a TV and Movies Writer at Dexerto. She's written for the likes of Total Film, The Daily Beast, and Radio Times. Jasmine loves anime, dystopian thrillers, and anything starring Tilda Swinton. You can email her here: jasmine.waters@dexerto.com.