With the 2016 Summer Games in Rio right around the corner, it’s no surprise Hollywood is looking to cash in on the patriotism many us will feel during this year. Race, the new film based on the life of Jesse Owens, is looking to capitalize on this scenario. It’s a smart move considering people get pumped for the games and may want to quench their Olympic excitement with a movie about triumphing on the biggest sports stage in the world. Films like this can teach you a thing or two about our heroes from the past while still making a few bucks as an added bonus.
The focus of Race deals with Jesse Owens time at Ohio State University as a track star up to his remarkable showing at the 1936 Summer Games in Berlin facing down a nation of hate in the NAZI regime. Stephan James plays Owens and does a fine job showing the timidness of Owens and the personal struggles he faced on and off the track. Race doesn’t sugar coat all aspect’s of Jesse’s life which sometimes happens in biopics. The decision to explore parts of the Olympians personal life allows James to bring more to the US sports hero than just a guy who runs fast and wants to win.
The real star of Race though is one you might not expect with a cast that includes William Hurt and an exceptional Jeremy Irons as Olympic official Avery Brundage who gets stuck in the NAZIs political web. Funny man Jason Sudeikis of We’re the Millers and SNL fame gives a breakout performance as Owens OSU track coach Larry Snyder. Sudeikis plays it serious as the no-nonsense fast talking coach who takes Owens under his wing. Snyder also likes to hit the bottle quite frequently as well. Sudeikis shows the audience there’s more to him than good looks and jokes with his role in Race.
The big negative I would take away from Race is the pace of the film. Owen’s story is an important message, but Race has a paint by numbers biopic formula. Jesse leaves home, coach asks him if he wants to be the best, Jesse struggles to be the best and so on. Director Stephen Hopkins shoves a lot of moments into the film’s 134 minute running time, which makes the film feel rushed sometimes trying to fit in all the pivotal moments in Owen’s life. Even with the fast-moving pace that is too rushed sometimes, Race is still an entertaining biopic with a standout performance by Jason Sudeikis.
Overall, I give Race 2.75 out of 4 stars.