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The Doctor, The Tornado & The Kentucky Kid

by: Mark Neale, Narrated by Ewan McGregor
Produced by: Dr. Flix
DVD ($24.95), 95 minutes
Format: NTSC DVD

I’ve become pretty jaded when it comes to motorcycle videos.  After all, we already have incredible nail-biting MotoGP excitement every Sunday, so what can a motorcycle racing video do to make it any better?

And, when I learned that The Doctor, The Tornado & The Kentucky Kid (hereinafter known as “DTK”) was made by the same folks who made the awful “Faster” MotoGP exploitation video, my hopes sank pretty low.  Faster is, in my opinion, basically a compilation of TV video that Dorna figured they may as well throw on a DVD rather then leave on the cutting room floor.

So when I popped the DTK disk into the DVD player and one of the first things I see is, believe it or not, stock MotoGP footage with — get this — telephone interviews of Rossi, Hayden, Edwards and Hopkins, I figured there was another 30 bucks down the tubes.

But I stuck with it and I’m glad I did.  DTK is a complete and successful film that stands on its own because it has the single most important ingredient that was missing from Faster — a plot.

Of course, it’s not a Shakespearean plot mind you, but it works.  It’s as simple as this: follow Valentino Rossi, Colin Edwards, Nicky Hayden and John Hopkins as they prepare for and compete in the 2005 Laguna Seca round of the MotoGP championship.

The producers do a very nice job of making a logical, compelling human interest story out of what could have been a confusing mishmash that includes the complexity, the hardware, the teamwork, the passion, the mental and physical toughness and the excitement that are the basic ingredients of MotoGP racing.

The film isn’t really a nail-biter, because we already know the outcome (why did it take so long to get this thing to market?) but it’s a complete story with everything necessary to make it interesting.

I always preview new motorcycle videos with an audience who knows nothing about the topic.  I’ll study their reactions as they watch and I’ll engage them in conversation when it’s finished.  A virgin crowd helps to develop a much more objective understanding of whether or not the storyline makes sense.

In this case, they loved it.  The film covers enough background detail for non-believers to grasp the basic principles of MotoGP for them to get carried away with the amazement and excitement and the anticipation of World Championship motorcycle racing.

They really got into it, picking favorites and oooohing, aaahhhhing and gasping during the crash scenes and radical passes.  So it’s obvious that the storyline does indeed work to tie together the players and their dreams in a way that makes it compelling to newbies.  But the video also has enough detail to keep experienced armchair MotoGP fanatics interested.  And when you think about it, that’s not an easy trick.

All is not roses though — there are a couple of flat spots here and there.  Besides the aforementioned telephone interviews (that I assume were added just prior to production when the producers must have figured the video needed another angle), there’s a bit too much talk and not enough action during the first 20 minutes or so, and this contributes to some audience zone-outs.

But the biggest faux pas is the absence of Hopkins’ name on the box.  “Hopper” plays a pretty hefty role in tying the film together as the outsider trying to bust the inner circle of podium contenders.

He adds a lot to the film and the production spends quite some time developing his story.  One of the most powerful scenes in the film is towards the end: a close-up of Hopkins’ face as Hayden, Edwards and Rossi celebrate on the podium.  It’s somewhat ironic that such a wistful can tell us volumes about why a MotoGP racer does it.  So why the film wasn’t called “The Doctor, The Kentucky Kid, Hopper and the Tornado” is beyond me, but maybe that makes a clumsy title even more so, which then also creates too many letters to fit on a DVD label.

In any case, I rate this film as one of the best motorcycle racing stories I’ve seen.  It’s relatively topical, unlike Faster, which featured the old two-stroke 500cc bikes but was unfortunately released just after the one-liter four-stroke era had begun.

DTK is probably not a video you’ll want to watch over and over, so the best strategy may be to convince your local library to buy a copy and then borrow it rather than buy it.  I’m also not sure it’s an absolute day-of-release must-see, but if you do get a chance, check it out.

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