by Toby Woollaston

waynePerhaps stymied by the calibre of great documentaries currently showing, Wayne, a film about Australia’s celebrated two-wheeled maestro, doesn’t quite achieve pole position.

The film tells the tale of Aussie racing legend Wayne Gardner, who rose through the ranks from a five-dollar dirt bike rider to World Motorcycle Grand Prix Champion.  He became a household name in the eighties, quite literally—even I’d heard of him, which is saying something. 

The film gets off the grid with a turbo-charged montage of the titular leather-clad Aussie sporting hero; revving bikes, adoring fans, mullets and stubbies in full force, and all to the backdrop of a wailing Jimmy Barnes.  It’s a pulsating and glorious snapshot of eighties Australia in full effect. Unfortunately, the film never manages to maintain that level of energy and backs off the throttle into a more dulcet tone for the remainder of the film.

Brought up by a relatively poor family in the steelwork and mining town of Wollongong, Gardner’s story follows a familiar trajectory common to many sporting heroes; a blinkered passion for the sport, strained relationships, triumph in the face of adversity—it’s all there. But where this doco is most interesting is the effect Gardner had on Australia’s many adoring fans at a time when the big red country was flexing its muscles on the sporting world. 

Considering it’s his first feature documentary, Director Jeremy Sims (Last Cab to Darwin) has done an adequate job. He has, however, been found disappointingly short of archival footage of Gardner’s early life, and his decision to plug the gaps with quasi-anime styled cartoons is an odd one—perhaps a wink to the Japanese bikes on show, but here it feels out of sorts with the rest of the documentary.

Wayne will definitely appeal to past and present enthusiasts of the sport, or the man himself.  Beyond that, it remains frustratingly mild and all too briefly hits top gear.

See my reviews for the NZ Herald here and for Witchdoctor here.