Speed Racer (Emile Hirsch) is an 18-year-old driver taking the race world by storm in his Mach 5 racing car. He is chasing his dead brother's track record. For Speed and his family, racing is a way of life. Speed's father Pops (John Goodman) designed and built the Mach 5, with support from Mom (Susan Sarandon), Speed's younger brother Spritle (Paulie Litt), Speed's lifelong companion Trixie (Christina Ricci), and mechanic Sparky (Kick Gurry).
Life for Speed changes dramatically when EP Arnold Royalton (Roger Allam), the owner of Royalton Industries (makers of car engines), offers Speed a place on his race team. When Speed refuses, Royalton turns nasty, revealing that all races are fixed to profit powerful corporations. Royalton informs Speed that unless he signs with Royalton industries, he will never be allowed to win a race. Worse, his career, family and life will be at risk.
Speed is approached by Inspector Detector (Benno Furmann) of the CIB. Detector asks Speed to join forces with Racer X (Matthew Fox) and a Japanese racer Taejo Togokhan (Rain) to enter the gruelling Casa Cristo race in an attempt to expose Royalton's illegal race fixing activities.
Corruption in the world of car-racing
Speed Racer contains frequent stylised action violence, much of it on the race track. There are frequent scenes of cars crashing, including cars flying through the air and bursting into flames. Examples of violence include:
- Competitors frequently slam their cars into rival competitor's cars to force them off the track.
- Drivers use spiked wheels to shred the tyres of other drivers and dump slime onto the track, forcing cars to skid out of control.
- Circular saw blades extend from the front of one car, cutting a path through anything they encounter.
- The driver of one car catapults a hornet's nest into a rival driver's face, causing the driver to lose control and swerve off the road.
- A driver throws a live snake into the lap of a rival, causing the driver to flip his car, which bursts into flames.
- During a race, a driver repeatedly fires a handgun at Speed.
- Speed deliberately rams a rival's car, forcing the driver to drive off a cliff.
- Rex Racer crashes into the side of a tunnel with the car exploding into a burst of flames. We hear that Rex was killed in the crash.
- The young Speed sits on Rex Racer's lap in a car speeding around a racetrack. When we next see Speed, he has bandages around his head and is missing his two front teeth, while Rex has cut to his head.
- In a flashback, 10-year-old Trixie punches another 10-year-old girl in the face.
- A ticking package is sent to Rex. He puts it into a go-cart and sends it into the street where it explodes without causing any injuries.
- In a flashback, we see a young Speed attacking another young boy with his fists.
- A large intimidating gangster slaps and punches Taejo Togokahn in the face, resulting in Taejo having a bloody nose.
- Two men grab Taejo, forcing one of his hands into a pirranha-filled tank but the hand is pulled out before the piranhas reach it. The main offender says to Taejo, 'Next time it's your sister in there'.
- Gangsters in a semitrailer shoot at an approaching racing car with machine guns. The driver returns fire, using his own mounted machine guns, causing the trailer to swerve all over the road. The gangsters inside the trailer fall and tumble about, and we see the trailer riddled with bullet holes. The gangsters throw Taejo out of the back of the trailer. He tumbles and rolls along the road but appears uninjured.
- Old TV footage shows a stunt driver on the bonnet of a car crashing through a burning fence and a man in flames running.
- A man holds another man by the throat and dangles him over the edge of a high-rise building. The man does not fall.
- A Ninja poisons Taejo by dripping poison into his mouth while he is asleep.
- Ninja-like attackers fight with Speed Racer, Racer X and Pops with punches and kicks to the face and body. One man twists another man's arm and fingers, and we hear the sounds of bones breaking. Pops lifts attackers and slams them into the ground and out of a window. Racer X punches one attacker so hard in the face that the attacker is lifted out of his pants.
- A Ninja attempts to stab Speed with a poisoned dart from a blowpipe. We see several people lying unconscious on the ground the result of having been struck by poisoned darts.
- A man points a gun at Taejo. As Taejo grabs and twists the man's wrist, we hear the sounds of bones breaking. Taejo then grabs the man by the throat and takes the gun away.
- A man drives his car over the top of a car driven by Trixie, trying to grind Trixie's head with the wheel of his car. The wheel spins inches from Trixie's face.
- A group of gangsters hold Speed, Racer X, Trixie, Pops and Spritle at gunpoint. A brawl erupts with lots of punching and kicking, with men being thrown through the air. Pops twists a gangster's foot, and Spritle shoots one of the attackers in the head with a slingshot. Spritle's chimpanzee throws faeces at a man, hitting him in the face and hits a man over the head with a wrench, knocking him unconscious.
- Speed takes out his pent-up aggression by driving in a reckless manner around a racetrack, crashing his car into Racer X's car.
Content that may disturb children
In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children in this age range. For example:
- Rex Racer lies on an operating table with his face covered in bandages.
- After his brother is killed, the young Speed is seen distraught and crying on his mother's shoulder.
- Royalton offers a million dollars to the driver who can kill Speed during the Grand Prix. The men racing against Speed all look very threatening.
- A large, intimidating Japanese cartoon character with an ugly face and broken teeth threatens to eat his victim's soul.
- Arnold Royalton takes on a very threatening and intimidating demeanour, at times appearing insane.
- Spritle opens a door to be faced with Racer X wearing a mask. Spritle looks scared and screams out, calling Racer X the 'harbinger of doom'.
- A glass ball filled with blood explodes.
- One scene contains images of a tank of vicious pirranhas with large razor-sharp teeth. A large piece of bloody meat is dropped into the tank, and the pirranhas strip the meat to the bone. Later when the same fish tank gets a bullet hole in its side, a man is forced to put his finger in the hole and we see pirranhas swimming towards the finger. The man screams and flails about and the water turn red. Later we see the man with a bloodied bandage around the stump of his severed finger.
- Several scenes show a young overweight boy (Spritle Racer) gorging himself on lollies and junk food to the point where he either collapses from exhaustion, or becomes hyperactive.
Children in this age group could also be disturbed by some of the violence and scenes described above.
Children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this movie.
Speed Racer contains infrequent low-level sexual references. For example, after seeing Speed and Trixie about to kiss, Spritle tells them 'I'm gonna hurl'. He then makes a remark about 'cooties'.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
There is some use of substances in this movie, including:
- Several scenes show people drinking beer, champagne and mixed drinks.
- Mr Royalton give Pops a box of 'hand-rolled' cigars and we later see a man smoking a cigar.
- We see images of a hookah pipe, but do not see people smoking from it.
- Mr Royalton asks Speed if he would like some champagne or a shot of whisky. Speed refuses.
- Speed and Trixie drink wine in a restaurant.
- A Ninja uses poison dripped down a string to incapacitate a driver and poison darts to incapacitate guards.
- Viking-like racers drink alcohol from mugs in a rowdy manner.
Nudity and sexual activity
There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:
- Several scenes feature women wearing revealing clothing, such as short skirts, brief shorts and low-cut tops.
- Speed and Trixie sit in a car overlooking a romantic scene. They talk and then lean towards each other but are interrupted by Spritle before they kiss.
- A female racer sticks her tongue out at Speed in a sensual manner, revealing a stud in her tongue.
None of concern
Speed Racer contains some mild to medium-level coarse language, name-calling and putdowns.
Ideas to discuss with your children
Speed Racer, based on the late 1960s animated TV show, is a stylised action car racing film. It targets a young adult and older adolescent male audience. The film runs for over two hours, and might be too long for younger viewers.
The main messages from this movie are that right will eventually triumph over wrong and that criminals will eventually receive their just rewards. You might like to discuss this view with your children as well as the values represented, such as self-sacrifice, loyalty and courage, and family devotion.
This movie could also give you the opportunity to discuss with your children real-life issues such as:
- reckless driving and road rage
- the health risks to young children of being over-weight like Spritle, and what should be considered as reasonable in terms of consuming junk food
- excessive wealth and corruption
- the portrayal of female characters.