You know you’re in for something special when a documentary opens with the obligatory “Don’t try this at home” warning. Well, now, I’m tempted. The documentary in question is JF Musial’s APEX: The Secret Race Across America, which presents the challenge of racing from New York to Santa Monica in the fastest amount of time.
APEX: The Secret Race Across America opens with the story of the race known as the Cannonball Run, which inspired the Burt Reynolds’ vehicle of the same name. For decades the actual Cannonball Run was a source of controversy and ridicule. First, law enforcement across the U.S. didn’t appreciate a high-speed race that would come through their state and small towns. Second, like the movie, many drivers didn’t take the race seriously and were looking for publicity by driving outlandishly decorated cars and wearing garish uniforms.
“Cameras take you inside and outside the vehicle, and 3,000 feet above the car, capturing every moment as proof of what they accomplished.”
As race organizers put to bed the Cannonball Run, real competitors secretly staged an underground race that no one would ever know about, and only serious trusted drivers were allowed to compete. That race would be known as the U.S. Express. The heart of Musial’s film follows two drivers, Alex Roy and David Diem, as they attempt to beat the standing record of 55.5 hours set in 1933.
Narrated by Ice-T, Musial structures his documentary starting with the race’s history beginning in 1915, leading into talking-head interviews from current participants philosophizing about man’s need to succeed and to always outdo oneself. The drivers then talk about the difficulty of the race itself and their preparation regarding the physical demands it will have on both their cars and themselves.