Some of the greatest movies ever made are sports movies. Hoop Dreams, Bull Durham, Rocky, Slap Shot — traditional sports are well represented in the scripted movie genre. Action sports documentaries and unscripted films are getting better every year, but it’s rarer to see a new scripted movie about the sports that we’re closest to: moto, BMX, skate, scooter, to name a few. That’s why we’re pumped to be partnering with Forrest Films on their upcoming Bennett’s War, which hits theaters Aug. 30. It’s a film that tells the story of a soldier who turns to motocross to support his family after being severely wounded in combat. Watch the trailer below and find your tickets right here.
In anticipation for Bennett’s War, we asked some Nitro Circus athletes about their favorite scripted action sports movies and then talked to writer-director Alex Ranarivelo about his inspiration for the film and what it’s like to make a modern action sports movie.
The best action sports movies, as picked by some of our athletes, probably won’t surprise you: Talladega Nights and Point Break are definitely honorable mentions, and some consider the Fast & Furious series at least action sports adjacent. But by far the two most common responses were Hot Rod and Rad. Gregg Duffy, the only human to ever land an FMX double frontflip, said: “Rad showed the tale of an underdog, with no sponsors and little money, working hard and eventually landing a sponsorship with one of the best teams in BMX.” He added, “Rad also showed the progression of racing along with freestyle, and what comes when you work hard and never take no for an answer.”
Veteran FMX athlete Jarryd McNeil, a 13-time X Games medalist, said Hot Rod is his personal favorite. Jarryd likes a movie that he can relate to and that’s a fun watch with friends. This idea hit home, because that is a very simple answer that says it all, really. Being relatable and entertaining is also at the core of Bennett’s War — along with a strong inspirational message. We spoke with Bennett’s War writer-director Alex Ranarivelo over email and were able to learn a little bit about him, his action sports background, and what makes Bennett’s War a must-see movie.
Nitro Circus: This movie looks like it was made by people who know their stuff. How much of the production team has action sports experience? What’s your background in action sports?
Alex Ranarivelo: I’ve always had a connection to motorsports in particular because I’m a total car guy. Wrenching on them, racing them, or even just watching them. I got my film career started through my love of cars. My first feature was about street racing, something I used to do in my teenage years. I’ve made films about drag racing, wheel to wheel racing, off road truck racing, BMX, and now motocross. I’ve always had a fascination with motocross because I was born in Saint-Jean-d’Angely, France, home to a well known motocross track, and when I first went there as a kid, I couldn’t believe what these guys could do with a motorcycle. There was a section of the track where they seemed to be riding straight up a wall. That always stayed with me. A lot of guys on our crew were some sort of gear heads. Honestly, maybe too many to list.
NC: What are your favorite action sports movies?
AR: Hmmm, probably Lords of Dogtown and Step Into Liquid, and I can barely skate or surf. I loved the story of Dogtown and I loved the photography of Liquid.
NC: In what ways do you relate to the main character, Marshall Bennett?
AR: I believe in what Marshall says: You have to pursue what you know you were born to do otherwise you die a little every day.
NC: What are some of the unique challenges for filming these intense and fast-paced racing scenes?
AR: I’ve directed a handful of car racing movies (such as Born to Race and Dirt), so I had experience filming chases and races, but motocross was a whole other thing. It’s very difficult to follow the action because the bikes are speeding over very rough terrain and at times there are crazy elevation changes. A camera car wasn’t going to work. What made it possible was the use of drones and the staple camera of action sports: GoPros.
NC: It looks like you’ve done a great job balancing realism with a cinematic experience. How difficult was that balance? What was your approach to creating that dynamic?
AR: Yes, that was definitely a challenge. Actor Tony Panterra stayed on as our technical adviser during the shoot and we always ran ideas by him. He kept us in check. He’s been racing motocross for 30 years. Now, we had to make some compromises in realism to make this exciting and accessible to the mainstream, but don’t worry, nobody is doing double backflips during a Moto. We kept the racing action as grounded as possible.
NC: This film looks like it has a strong message as well as being straight-up entertaining. What do you hope is the main takeaway for an audience watching this movie?
AR: I hope people are entertained, enthralled, and even a little moved by this movie. I hope the message to be patient, to be persistent, and to never give up shines through.
Check out Bennett’s War at a theater near you on Aug. 30. Click here for tickets.