“The race track is no place for a nice girl.”Rich Girl’s Dad from “Alabama Dirt”
The motor racing film has been a longtime staple of the movie industry. Fast cars, good looking young people, and opportunities for high octane action scenes as much as could possibly be desired. It’s a film classification that has been effective in any era since the advent of moving pictures. As the methods we use to consume this media have expanded, it has granted more opportunity to explore this subgenre in even greater depth. With that in mind, American dirt oval track racing has seen a big boost in film quantity, particularly at the independent or near-independent level of filmmaking. Here at TehBen we’ve reviewed an enjoyable little movie on Late Model racing in “Lady Driver” as well as the woefully underperforming John Travola movie based on the same subject. Still, nearly every time I go digging deep in the movie selections on Amazon or Tubi, a dirt racing film that’s new to me rears its (occasionally ugly) head.
Alabama Dirt, sometimes referred to as “Furious in Alabama” or even “LA Dirt” in earlier articles on the production of the film, is a rather novel attempt to blend small time deep dixie dirt track racing into a traditional “zero to hero” sports narrative. Our handsome male lead, Ty Hargrove is a street stock driver in the Alabama area operating on a shoestring budget alongside his somewhat nerdy but reliable young mechanic known as Lurvy. Like all dirt track drivers, Ty and Lurvy are worried about the financial side of their racing operation, particularly the cost of tires. Mind you, this concern about tires doesn’t stop the boys from driving on pavement and dirt roads of their hometown heading to a rich kids party. Racers, man.
Anyway, the actual racing segments of the movie is what matters most, and for a strictly independent film, it has some strong qualities. The cars look perfect, as movies have learned to shoot on site at racetracks and commit to the background looking correct because of it. All of the racing takes place at the real world Deep South Speedway, and I suspect they used a LOT of the facility’s real world competitors and patrons in its scenes. Everything outside of the main characters in the background shots of the film look exactly how dirt tracks across the country look, and the mood from the real world is transferred wonderfully. The sound isn’t great during the racing, and the movements of the cars lack some of the intensity we love to see from Hollywood…but then again we’re talking about street stock cars here so what is presented in this film is a little more believable.
The racing in the film takes place sort of besides the story. Ty works for a pole business, (a telephone pole business more specifically), and is trying to balance the similarities and differences of that life to his existence on the track. Chasing sponsor money, pretty girls chasing him at the post-race hoedown concerts, living your best life while your once highly regarded father drinks himself to death in the home you were raised in…it’s all here and more. Street stock racing is the unquestioned cultural influence and main export of this small town, and the interpersonal relationships between the hero and villain driver revolve around qualifying for some sort of Alabama state championship race. The rich boy villains and the rich girl love triangles that come from this fit alongside most Hollywood scripts, but it just doesn’t have the same zip when it’s implemented in the street stock world. One might think it hard to trash talk in a “daddy’s money street stock”, but what’s on the screen is adorable and fairly realistic if you think about your own local dirt track in the same context, as sad as that may be.
VERDICT: The story of Alabama Dirt is what I like to call “delightfully pointless, and hauntingly realistic.” What is being presented to the viewer is not shared perfectly, but taking in this narrative is like talking to a local dirt racer about his own story, and perhaps should be considered from the hero’s own point of view exclusively. I’ve had the privilege and honor of speaking to local and pro dirt racers in my time as a writer, and I suspect that whoever conceived this story has spent some time doing the same. This is how a shoestring dirt racer might see themselves, and project their influences to a greater degree when telling their own story. The romantic notions and balance of work/track life don’t mean a damn thing outside the walls of this film, and that’s a-ok with me. You can’t watch this film waiting to be entertained, you have to be interested in the subject matter before even setting forth on its voyage. That’s a tall order for most racing movie fans, but for those who seek it out, the simplicity of this story woven around realistic race sequences will be its own reward.
See Alabama Dirt on the Tubi App for free or with an Amazon Prime Video subscription
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