In cinema terms, the fourth film in any franchise is usually the point where it goes straight to DVD. Lord of the Rings was three, The Hobbit will be three, Star Wars should have remained at three although the sixth was the first/last three episodes’ saving grace. What JJ Abrams will do with the next trilogy is anyone’s guess.
It isn’t even often the sequel to a film is better than the original, The Empire Strikes Back and The Godfather Part II being the exceptions the prove the rule. Part four of the Jaws franchise was the worst film ever made and made a mockery of Spielberg’s original – the film that coined (literally) the phrase summer blockbuster. Mark Sloper’s I, Superbiker series has now grown to its fourth incarnation, and it still amazes me how he manages to even get it into cinemas. That is not a reflection of the quality of the production, rather a reflection of how tough it is for an independent filmmaker to get their work shown – especially a film shot around such a niche subject. But get it shown he does.
War for Four’s premise was the battle between two three-time MCE British Superbike Champions, Shane Byrne and Ryuichi Kiyonari, and their scrap to be the first-ever four-time winner of the title. A good setup.
However, Kiyonari’s form over the early part of the season meant it became, well, not that. More the Tiff of Three. Those being Byrne, youngster Alex Lowes and Australian Josh Brookes, with some James Ellison thrown in for good measure.
Where WFF (as it shall be known) differs from the other three is a far more human approach to the business of motorcycle racing. Sloper’s delve into the history of eventual champion Lowes – and his twin brother Sam who was crowned World Supersport Champion in the same fortnight – gives a more heartfelt view on the struggle, work and expense of making it to the top.
Contained within is the story of the Bridewells. Tommy, who went from a top-ten man to podium contender in 2013 and secured a factory Milwaukee Yamaha ride along the way, lost his brother Ollie in a race crash and Sloper captures beautifully the wrench it caused and the fallout, the family coming to terms with what happened and Tommy’s determination to get to the top in the name of his sibling.
What WFF is not is a typical season review. Of course, there are those elements to it, but it is a far more rounded film in the nature of Rush – although more in a documentary fashion than Ron Howard’s Hunt/Lauda extravaganza.
WFF goes on general release on April 10. Click here for a complete cinema list.