10 July 2012

Ken Block Gymkhana 5: The Streets of San Francisco (w/ video)

Words by Niky Tamayo
Some people say he has terrible taste in shoes, and that he sold out when he spanked a monkey in his last movie. Which may or may not be true. All we know for sure is, he’s called Ken Block.
Motorheads across the world have thrilled to the antics of Ken Block over the past few years and the build up in frenzy for each new Gymkhana film is matched only by the furore over Jeremy Clarkson’s waggling jowls on camera. Yet, after the gimmicky, overproduced Gymkhana 4 failed to capture the raw horsepower and adrenaline of Gymkhana 3 (the most-viewed DC Shoes Commercial to date), the question was: “What’s left?” What could be bigger than having the huge Universal Studios lot as your playground?
I know! Let’s try closing an entire city down for a few days’ worth of hooning! San Francisco, say hello to Gymkhana 5.
Take a bit of Gymkhana 3, a bit of "Bullitt", and a bit of "C’etait un Rendezvous" (if you're too green to have ever watched the other two, go out and do so), and you get Gymkhana 5. Ken Block’s new video makes better use of the city by the bay than “Bullitt” ever did. It also has a much better sense of geography, too. 
While Gymkhana 4 was simply more-of-the-same simply executed in a more exotic location, G5 adds some truly unique stuff to the mix. High speed drifts, jumping drifts, tabletop jumps, cable cars, barge-top driving, and the return of some actual competition Gymkhana elements, like reverse gate entries. Who says you can’t teach a new dog old tricks?
The action is raw. Instead of the perfectly manicured runs from the previous film, we see nudged pylons and GoPro cameras flying off and fizzling out due to the heat. In some of the higher speed sections, you can almost imagine that this isn’t a staged production. In fact, the biggest disappointment with G5 is that it wasn’t five or six minutes longer.
Is Ken Block a one-trick pony? It’s easy to imagine he is. But this guy just finished the X-Games Rallycross race with a silver medal, driving behind winner Sebastian Loeb with a flat tire for half the race. 
Hey, everybody loses to Sebastian Loeb, but not everyone does it with such style.