Ferrari ★★

Not a terrible movie but the saddest takeaway of this whole thing is that it seems evident that Mann is losing his touch. His movies are almost always high wire acts between patently ridiculous expressions of techno machismo and revelatory, auteurist breakthroughs. “Thief,” “Heat” and even (or especially) “Miami Vice” all pushed the boundary between verisimilitude and absurd male fantasies, but they somehow transcended their clichés and emerged into beautiful masterworks. In “Ferrari” he just can’t maintain his balance on that high wire.

This biopic tries not to be a biopic, mostly by tightening its scope to just three months in the life of Mann proxy Enzo Ferrari, but it just can’t shake off the many Dewey Cox-esque tropes of the genre. In that way it reminded me of “Oppenheimer” but where Nolan blew up (no pun intended) the form of his biopic through the construction of an ingenious, intricate structure, Mann seems to either be out of ideas or alarmingly prone to making the wrong directorial decisions again and again. There’s a lot of shockingly rote, biopic-style, life drama nonsense here, as well as some shockingly unearned tragedy-making in the third act. His customarily peerless technical aspects, while rigorous, don’t add up to a lot of narrative elegance; I’m sad to say I just couldn’t follow who was who and who was driving whose car in the climactic road race. (Spoiler alert: there’s a climactic road race.) Of the cast, Woodley has an awful accent, Driver is studiously hammy, and only Cruz is remarkable, as always, in a sadly underwritten role. It hurts me to say that I’m starting to dread “Heat 2.”

Saw it on the closing night of NYFF61 at Alice Tully Hall, where the sound system is a joke. Followed by a Q&A with Mann, Driver, Cruz and Leone, which was moderated by Dennis Lim.

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