A quick review of “LongWay Down”

For those unaware, “LongWay Down” is second in a series of motorcycle adventure films starring Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman on their ride from John O’Groates, Scotland to Capetown, South Africa. (The initial series was called “LongWay Round” which documented their ride from London, England to New York, USA). Last night, Fathom Events put on a one night only showing of the Director’s cut version of LongWay Down, presumably as a bit of promotion before the entire series airs on Fox Reality beginning tomorrow.

Let me start by saying I ADORED the first series, to the point where I refused to wait a year for the DVD to be released in America, so I bought the UK version from Amazon.co.uk and ordered a DVD player that would do the PAL -> NTSC format conversion so I could actually watch it. Needless to say, when the second series was released back in November 2007, I already had mine on pre-order from the LWD home office in London. It was in my DVD player 30 minutes after it arrived, and I got through the series in 2 days.

So, you can see I was excited for the theatrical release of the Director’s Cut. I’m not sure what I was expecting though….

After having seen the series, the director’s cut version was, simply said, an hour and a half long preview. The pace of the film felt very hurried and chaotic, similar to the trip I am sure, but not true to the series. It seemed to me that the director wanted to pack the whole trip into a single film rather than focus on a few key experiences and give them the time they deserved on screen. Yes, I am SURE it was difficult, nay impossible to cut huge sections like that, but it would have made for a better film, and a more interesting DVD series release if you hadn’t seen it prior to the director’s cut.

Even in the flustered pace of the film, I did still find it enjoyable. Ewan and Charlie’s narration helped to that end quite a bit. And of course, the film flamed the fire that burns in me to get out and ride for days on end. I figure if I didn’t leave the theater feeling the need to just go ride…. Then the film failed. Luckily, I DO feel that burning desire and thus, the film was a success in my eyes.

Of course, having sat through a 90minute preview, both Jean and I also have the desire to plop our butts on the couch for the weekend and marathon through the series on DVD… on our 52″ flat screen TV… and with a sound system that puts the theater’s to shame (perhaps it wasn’t the systems fault, but the theater’s sound was about the worse I have heard since the late 1970s, just tinny and awful).

With that, my recommendation is as follows: buy the DVD sets. You really don’t have a choice at this point, since the director’s cut was a one night only showing, so I can’t tell you to go see it THEN watch the DVD series. What I can say, however, is to skip the Fox Reality broadcast. Really, if you are at all interested in the series, do yourself the favour and just buy the DVDs. While you’re at it, get the LongWay Round too and start there if you haven’t already seen it. While not required, watching them in order will be more enjoyable in the long run…