Review: 'Race' works better as a story of determination

RACE: 3 STARS

The title of a new historical drama works on two levels. On the surface "Race" is about Jesse Owens, the greatest and most famous athlete in track and field history.

See Full Article

It is the story of his early career and the Ohio State races that made him a legend but it is also about how an African American runner stared down Hitler and won.

The story begins 28 months before the 1936 Olympics in Germany. Owens (Stephan James) is a freshman at Ohio State University.

As one of the few African American students at the school he faces daily indignities like not being allowed to use the showers until all the white athletes are finished.

Track and field coach Larry Snyder (Jason Sudeikis) senses Jesse’s potential and trains the young man, refining his technique.

Jesse Owens biopic

"Everyone says he’s a natural, best they've ever seen." The pair work towards a goal, the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. "If he works on his ‘start,’" says Snyder in a telling bit of foreshadowing, "you’re looking at a 1936 gold-medal winner at the Olympics."

In the ramp-up to the games Owens smashes long-held world records, becoming a local celebrity and a natural choice to lead America’s entry in Berlin, but he has doubts.

"I heard they don't care much for coloured folk over there," he says.

"Don't care much in Columbus either," replies Snyder. "Is that going to be a problem?"

Add to that the enormous demands on him to win and pressure from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to stay at home and to show solidarity for the oppressed people of Germany and Owens is conflicted.

Eventually the weight of race and politics are pushed aside—"Out there on that track you're free of all of this," says Ownes. "There's no black-and-white just fast and slow."—and the rest, as they say, is history.

We all know pretty much how "race" will end so the trick for director Stephen Hopkins is to keep it entertaining along the way. For the most part he does, amping up the story with melodrama and an old fashioned story of triumph.

The racing scenes are effectively rendered and a sequence where Jesse learns to block out all the distractions brings the audience into the mindset of a runner for whom focus is the key to winning. Also, in the parallel story of the Olympics committee’s decision to partake in the games is a particularly chilling shot of the proposed Nazi Embassy next to the White House.

Melodramatic though the presentation, there is an undeniable gut-punch that comes along with the dramatization of inhumanity, whether it is the personal slight of Owens being called names on and off the track or the Nazis ousting Jewish families from their homes. Hopkins infuses both with meaning, using them to push the story forward.

It’s in the Synder character the movie stumbles. Sudeikis plays this tough-talking, hard-drinking excuse for an inspirational character with a kind of heightened reality that adds to the melodramatic feel of the film.

Stephan James remains at the heart of the film, steady and strong able to convincingly play the athlete and the man.

Ultimately "Race" isn’t really about race or, specifically racing. It’s about sportsmanship and the ability of sports to cut through personal prejudices of all sorts. As a sports movie it gets less exciting when it leaves the track but as a story of human determination and will it earns a gold medal.



Advertisements

Latest Entertainment News

  • 'Wonder Woman' wows at CinemaCon

    Entertainment CTV News
    LAS VEGAS - Wonder Woman is here to save the world, and, possibly the future of Warner Bros. DC Comics universe. New footage featuring actress Gal Gadot's lasso-wielding superhero stole the show Wednesday night at CinemaCon, which also featured some peeks at "Aquaman" and "Justice League. Source
  • Cellphones banned backstage for accountants after Oscar flub

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    LOS ANGELES — PwC accountants won’t be allowed to have their cellphones backstage during future Oscar telecasts. Film academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs sent an email to academy members Wednesday detailing the new protocols for announcing Oscar winners developed after the best-picture flub at last month’s Academy Awards. Source
  • 'Fresh Prince of Bel Air' aunt takes aim at cast reunion

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air alum Janet Hubert has slammed her castmates following their recent reunion. The actress, who played Aunt Vivian on the hit show, took to Facebook on Tuesday and posted a rant against her former co-stars, accusing them of reuniting solely for publicity. Source
  • Michael Bay in talks to produce El Chapo film

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Blockbuster king Michael Bay is reportedly in talks to produce and direct a film about the drug lord Sean Penn interviewed for Rolling Stone while he was on the run from Mexican authorities Movie bosses at Sony have acquired the rights to Cole Merrell’s upcoming book Hunting El Chapo: The Thrilling Inside Story of The American Lawman Who Captures The World’s Most-Wanted Drug Lord and they are in negotiations with the Transformers director to produce the project. Source
  • George Michael finally laid to rest in private funeral

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    LONDON — Singer George Michael’s publicist says his funeral has been held in London. The private funeral ceremony took place Wednesday at Highgate Cemetery in north London. Michael’s publicity agency, Connie Filippello Publicity, said in a statement it was attended by family and close friends Source
  • Former 'Canada AM' host Marci Ien new co-host of 'The Social'

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    TORONTO — Former “Canada AM” host Marci Ien has officially found a new home on CTV’s “The Social.” On Wednesday’s episode of the daytime talk show, co-host Traci Melchor returned after a long absence and announced she will not be returning as a permanent panellist. Source
  • No cellphones backstage for accountants after Oscars best picture flub

    Entertainment CBC News
    PwC accountants won't be allowed to have their cellphones backstage during future Oscar telecasts. Film academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs sent an email to academy members Wednesday detailing the new protocols for announcing Oscar winners developed after the best-picture flub at last month's Academy Awards. Source
  • Warring Vin Diesel, Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, kept separate for 'Fate and the Furious' press tour: Report [Video]

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Movie bosses at Universal are reportedly keeping Vin Diesel and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson away from each other for fear their 2016 feud will wreck promotion for the new Fast & Furious movie. Executives will present footage from The Fate of the Furious at CinemaCon in Las Vegas on Wednesday, and Johnson will most noticeably be absent. Source
  • New biography says Angelina Jolie was drug-tested for 'Tomb Raider'

    Entertainment CTV News
    NEW YORK - To help shed her early reputation, Angelina Jolie agreed to be drug tested during production of 2001's "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider," according to a new book. The Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday released an excerpt from an upcoming biography of the former studio head Sherry Lansing, "Leading Lady. Source
  • Watch: First scary trailer for Stephen King's 'It' debuts [Video]

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Get ready to hate clowns again. The first trailer for the new big-screen adaptation of Stephen King’s terrifying novel It landed Wednesday and if the brief glimpses we get of Pennywise are any indication, real clowns are going to have a hard time getting birthday party gigs this summer. Source