Win a suite stay­ca­tion at Le Meri­dien Cy­ber­port!

HK Magazine - - PAGE 3 - Jes­sica Wei

(USA/Ger­many/Canada). Drama. Di­rected by Stephen Hop­kins. Star­ring Stephan James and Ja­son Sudeikis. Cat­e­gory IIA. 134 min­utes. Opened May 5.

Sports movies are al­ways more ex­cit­ing to watch than the games they’re based on. If you hate base­ball, the least ef­fec­tive way to cap­ture your in­ter­est is hav­ing to sit through an ac­tual base­ball game. But you’ll prob­a­bly still en­joy “Field of Dreams” or “A League of Their Own” for all the nar­ra­tive gaps they fill be­tween in­nings: There’s the hero’s jour­ney, a clear op­po­nent, flashy ac­tion shots, swelling mu­sic, mo­ments of ten­sion and a cru­cial fi­nal tie-breaker. And if “Race” was just about a fast dude with a ti­tle to win and some goons to take down, then it would be a pretty ex­cit­ing track and field flick.

But “Race” is about Jesse Owens, the leg­endary AfricanAmer­i­can track star whose story is as in­spir­ing and mo­ti­va­tional as it gets: Born in 1913 in Alabama and grow­ing up in a racially seg­re­gated Amer­ica, he over­comes ev­ery pos­si­ble ad­ver­sity, win­ning four gold medals at the 1936 Olympic Games—in front of Adolf Hitler, no less. “Race” has big themes to deal with. A reg­u­lar old sports flick doesn’t quite cut it.

We meet Owens (Stephan James, “Selma”), at his fam­ily home in the 1930s. He’s an af­fa­ble guy in small-town Ohio with an aw-shucks shrug and love for his work­ing class fam­ily. The first of his clan to go to col­lege, on a run­ning schol­ar­ship to the less-than-lib­eral Ohio State Univer­sity, he is quickly no­ticed by the coach, Larry Sny­der (SNL’s Ja­son Sudeikis). There’s racial hos­til­ity: some rib­bing, some guys throw­ing around the word “mon­key” a cou­ple of times, but it gets shut down pretty quickly by Sny­der. Owens goes on to win big, set­ting three world records and ty­ing a fourth in a sin­gle race meet. He wins big­ger. He com­petes at the Olympics. The rest: his­tory.

Watch­ing “Race,” you get the dis­tinct im­pres­sion that it’s the kind of movie that teach­ers play to their pri­vate school stu­dents to ex­plain Amer­i­can his­tory. But the film takes all of the nu­ance—and re­al­ity—out of these teach­able themes, re­plac­ing them in­stead with con­ve­nient nar­ra­tive beats. It teaches us that racial seg­re­ga­tion at its worst is when ath­letes are with­drawn from com­pe­ti­tion, or when locker room trash talk gets a lit­tle un­com­fort­able. It teaches us that racism can be solved with a white sav­ior. In “Race,” there is no vi­o­lence, only the sug­ges­tion of vi­o­lence: Coach Sny­der ac­ci­dently catch­ing glimpse of a group of Jews herded into the back of a truck; Owens get­ting a lit­tle abra­sive try­ing to ex­plain some child­hood mem­o­ries. But be­fore these mo­ments set­tle, they’re quickly shuf­fled off by more sports movie crescen­do­ing. The mu­sic swells, the crowd’s on their feet and man, when Jesse’s up in the air, he’s re­ally soar­ing!

Like a cheap seafood buf­fet, you feel great when con­sum­ing “Race,” but af­ter you leave, the dis­com­fort starts. You re­al­ize that the writ­ing is clichéd and the di­rec­tion is heavy­handed, tak­ing su­per­fi­cial vis­ual cues from film noir, Ger­man expressionism and the Amer­i­can jazz age—but it all looks over­done and ob­vi­ous. Mean­while, the Holo­caust seems like a mere in­con­ve­nience, rather than the low­est point in hu­man­ity. “Race” is a fun sports movie, es­pe­cially if you don’t care about sports. But as a biopic and as so­cio-po­lit­i­cal com­men­tary, it’s at best naïve—and at worst, a be­trayal of leg­endary fig­ure.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.