Raindance 2021 Film Festival Review: The Noise of Engines

Written by Alexander Reams

62/100

Loud noises, going in a straight path, exotic colors, wild outfits, in this race a star can be born, I could be describing RuPaul’s Drag Race, alas I am not. Instead, I am describing the modern culture of drag racing. Two (or in some cases four) cars in the same class (stock, superstock, street, super, street pro mod, top fuel, top alcohol, funny car, alcohol funny car, pro mod, pro stock motorcycle, to name a few) race down a quarter-mile track, much more exciting than stock car racing. This was a tradition to go to the closest drag races (which were in Charlotte, NC) and spend the weekend inhaling nitrous fuel, eating bad food, and seeing crazy races. This culture has been in my veins since I got my first whiff of nitromethane, and from the get-go in The Noise of Engines, I could smell that wonderfully cruel (to my sense of smell) fuel again. 

Philippe Grégoire’s debut is without a doubt one of the weirder concepts to hit screens in 2021. A Canadian customs agent (Robert Naylor as Alexandre) is placed on leave and heads back to his hometown, he strikes up a friendship with an Icelandic drag racer, (Tanja Björk as Aðalbjörg) and simultaneously becomes the center of a police investigation into sexually explicit drawings popping up all over town, after he returns home. The premise of a film can intrigue me, but it’s seldom that it will cause me to raise an eyebrow, this one did. In part because of the drag racing aspect. This form of racing is rarely covered in the film and to see it here was welcome, and even more so because it was done so well. The respect for this sport is evident throughout, and the care given to it. 

This care and reverence do not extend to its woefully miscast lead, Robert Naylor as our main character, Alexandre. From the get-go, he is in over his head in a script that is very smart and aware of its subject matter, and instead, Naylor always has this expression that looks like the beginning of a punchline that we haven’t heard the setup to. This takes away from the countless serious moments and instead are even more awkward encounters than Grégoire intended to have in his film. This flaw is extremely detrimental to the overall quality of the film due to the way the story is framed, if we were following Björk instead of Naylor, then the film could’ve had a better RT (reaction time) rather than the red light going throughout the film.

The Noise of Engines Trailer

The Noise of Engines was screened as part of the 2021 edition of the Raindance Film Festival.

You can connect with Alexander on his social media profiles: Instagram, Letterboxd, and Twitter. Or see more of his work on his website.

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