Less fun than a Lambo sighting

Frank Grillo as Ferruccio Lamborghini, tractor manufacturer-turned-automaker, in Lamborghini: The Man Behind the Legend (Photos courtesy of Lionsgate)

By Richard Ades

Ferruccio Lamborghini’s new biopic could have been called Lamborghini v. Ferrari, as the rivalry between the two Italian supercars is a central theme. It’s fortunate that it wasn’t, as that name would have made it even harder to avoid comparisons with 2019’s far superior Ford v. Ferrari.

Instead, the flick is called Lamborghini: The Man Behind the Legend, thus promising an in-depth study of the entrepreneur who created one of the world’s most exotic automobiles. Sadly, however, it also has trouble living up to that title, as it leaves us with little idea who Lamborghini really was. Written and directed by Bobby Moresco (co-scripter of Crash), it comes across as just another biopic about a man whose ego and ambition dominate his life.

Where did this ambition come from? It’s a mystery, as the young Lamborghini (Romano Reggiani) already has his eye fixed on success when he returns to the family farm after serving in World War II. Rather than settling back into his old life, he tells his father he plans to make his fortune by designing and marketing a superior breed of tractor.

“You’ll throw your life away,” his pragmatic father (Fortunado Cerlino) warns him.

“But what better way to do it than in search of greatness?” the son replies.

That begs the question: Do real-life people really talk about “greatness” in such an abstract way? Maybe not, but they do in this film, adding to the feeling that Moresco has crafted a generic and rather rushed (97-minute) biopic that doesn’t take time to flesh out its protagonist.  

Lamborghini (Frank Grill) introduces his namesake sports car to the world.

The presence of a devoted best friend and loving wife (Matteo Leoni and Hannah van der Westhuysen) do help to humanize Lamborghini, but they abruptly disappear from the film soon after it makes a jarring leap several years into the future. There we find that Lamborghini (now played with rigid determination by Frank Grillo) has become a successful tractor manufacturer with a new doting wife (Mira Sorvino).

Eventually, of course, Lamborghini branches out from farm machinery into high-class automobiles. According to the film, it’s all due to a brief encounter he has with the one and only Enzo Ferrari (Gabriel Byrne), during which he brashly offers to help improve the automaker’s celebrated product. Ferrari responds dismissively, which is depicted as the catalyst that propels Lamborghini on a quest to create his own luxury sports car—and to do it in time to debut it at a prominent auto show just months away.

The frantic scenes that follow, with their shop talk of aluminum engine blocks and wet sumps, might interest the kind of auto geek who’s likely to be drawn to a film called Lamborghini: The Man Behind the Legend. But they do little to fill in the blanks of a biopic that promises more than it delivers.

Rating: 2 stars (out of 5)

Lamborghini: The Man Behind the Legend (rated R) opens Nov. 18 at select theaters and VOD outlets.