Written by Fumo Verde
The Gumball 3000 is a six-day race that hits three countries, France, Spain, and Morocco, over two continents, Europe and Africa 'case you couldn't figure that one out, and takes place over 3000 miles. It features 192 super-expensive, tricked-out cars and has loads of characters who drive them.
Director Ruben Fleischer was one of eight cameramen that covered the event along with help from some mounted cams that were put in a few of the cars. This isn't a movie like Cannonball Run; it's a documentary that covers the race in May 2004. Everything you see here is real. There are no stunt drivers or stunt cars. This shit is the real deal.
At first, when El Bicho asked me to do this, I thought it would be pretty mundane, but right from the intro, I could tell this documentary would be like no other. The cast of lunatics participating in this race range includes European playboys, Saudi Princes, super models such as Jodie Kidd, actors like Adrian Brody, and even regular working-class stiffs like plumbers Ben James and Tim Masterson. Ben and Tim, unlike almost everybody else, scrapped all the money they had just to get here, and for them like the rest, this race was going to be a real adventure.
The show starts somewhere in the race, where, on a busy, two-lane road, that's one lane going one way and the other lane going the other, a Porsche is weaving in and out of traffic, passing on both the left and right shoulder lanes. A rally driver shouts, "This guy is fucking crazy!" as the cameraman in the back tries to follow the Porsche as it darts away. Then the intro starts. Here you get introduced to some of the competitors, mainly the ones the camera guys ride with.
During registration is when Fleischer tries to figure out who he wants to ride with during this race. Instantly, you come across a host of wily characters who, if for only but a brief moment, make you laugh. Kim Schmitz, a huge man in height and girth, is the "evil German genius". He is really full of himself and has a diabolical sense of humor. Big Black, an actor and professional bodyguard rides with pro skater Rob Dyrdek; the adventure these guys have is comedy in itself.
The race starts off in Paris at noon, with a short stop at the first checkpoint at a place called Mas Du Clos, a private racetrack in Southern France. This is only a temporary stop, as the competitors find out that they have to still drive another seven hours to get to Madrid, Spain, the second check point to end the first leg of the tour. At this point, the drivers have been on the road for 25 hours.
In the Spanish port of Marbella a ferry picks up the drivers and their vehicles. This, I found out while watching the directors cut, was a private ferry for the racers only. This boat takes them to Africa and to the country of Morocco. Here, with the King of Morocco's blessings, the drivers go ape shit, hitting speeds of 210 miles an hour with nothing but kids on bikes and wild donkeys to pass by. The next checkpoint is in Casablanca, at Rick's Cafe. From there it's on to Marrakech, then the town of Fez, where the ferry takes the racers back to Spain.
Back in Spain, it's a race to Barcelona, but now the Spanish police are gunning for the Gumballers, arresting anyone with numbers and DC stickers on their cars. The drive through Spain is full of surprises pulled by both the cops to catch the Gumballers and by the Gumballers to sneak away. The final leg of the race takes the drivers from Spain back to France, where the race ends in the seaside city of Cannes just in time for the Film Festival.
This isn't some wacky race with bar fights and boobs poppin' out of bras, not that there is anything wrong with that. Instead, it's a hard-core endurance test that pushes the envelope, not only for the cars, but for the drivers as well. It has its laughs because Fleischer choose good characters to follow, but it has its dragging points too. There were some really interesting people that I wish we could have seen more of, and there were drivers who I wish Ruben hadn't wasted time on. Mostly it's a super-charged flick that will leave you wanting to get out of your house and either head out on a long road trip or do donuts in the parking lot of your local grocery store.
I said that this was the real deal, right? How can you be certain, Fumo? Well, in Morocco, on the way back to the city of Fez, a passenger in one of the other cars caught on tape how dangerous this race can be. The camera is shooting from a car doing 120 mph, which you can see on their GPS system. At the same time, two guys in a red Viper are maybe 45 to 50 seconds a head of the car with the camera. Within a heartbeat, the Viper, probably doing 150 to 160 mph, hits a bump and goes flying off the road in a 90-degree turn from the direction it was heading in, only to be demolished as it tumbled for about 350 yards, just missing some kids with their donkey and cart. The driver, by the grace of the Gods, only suffered some minor injuries, while his passenger walked away clean. Amazing considering that they were in a convertible.
Through the sheer determination of these folks, one could see why people come back to race in the Gumball every year. It's an event that brings its competitors to the edge of their own envelopes and Ruben Fleischer catches this moment in one hell of a style.
The extras include a director's commentary, which is kind of boring, and that's because Ruben didn't really want to speak, and an interview with Maximillion Cooper, the man who brought created and hosts the race.
Gumball 3000: 6 Days in May rates as a good documentary that not only informs you about this race, but gives you a good laugh, brings about excitement and puts you on the edge of your seat at times wondering what will happen around the next turn.
This is Fumo Verde--the Fast and the Furious don't have shit on the Gumballers.