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Title: Race

Movie: :3stars:
Video: :4.5stars:
Audio: :4stars:
Extras: :1.5stars:

HTS Overall Score:75

Jesse Owens is a name that is legend in the sporting world, especially in those who are fans of the Olympic Games. His actions in the 1936 Olympics would actually hold records that were not to be beaten until a quarter of a century later. What makes his story unique is the political and social scenarios that played out during his life time. Not only was Jesse Owens a poor black man trying to make a better life, but he was living in an era where being a black man was NOT the most popular thing in the world in America. To make it worse he was living in a time when the Olympics were being held in German, just three years before Hitler would turn the entire world into a battle ground and one of his most prized mantras was his degradation of the Jews and Black people. “Race” tries to capture the battling forces at work for Jesse and bring a bit of recognition for one of the greatest runners to grace our Olympic teams.

Back in 1933 being a black person wasn’t easy, especially when that black person tried to move outside their supposed station. Jesse (Stephan James) was the first person in his family to go to college, and that collegiate experience came with running on the Ohio State track team under the coaching of Larry Snyder (Jason Sudeikis). Being the fastest man alive at that time he strove his entire time there to meet one qualification. That little thing known as the Olympics. Making it was no problem, as the fastest man alive had feet of lightning, but that feat was not met without opposition. On one hand we have Jesse and his family yearning for their goal, but on the other hand there are plenty of African Americans and other creeds and colors trying to protest the fact that the Olympics are being held in Berlin. The very capital of the country that is supposedly rounding up undesirables by the truckload and doesn’t even try to hid their theory on Aryan superiority.

As we all know, Jesse ends up going, but what he faces in Germany is less than tasteful. The head of the Olympic association, Avery Brundage (Jeremy Irons) has made a back door deal with Goebbels (Barnaby Metschurat) to allow the African and Jewish athletes to play, but the underlying hostility is blatantly apparent on and off the field. However, to an athlete, nothing exists but the rush of the wind around you and the event at hand, and no matter what the hatred and opposition that Jesse faced, nothing could stop the man from coming home with 4 Olympic medals.

“Race” is a valiant effort at capturing the incredibly inspiring tale of an American hero, and is given some stellar performances by all involved, but it is hampered by a script that seems content to go through the motions of telling the story rather than truly engaging the viewer. Everything seems a bit rushed as we see the events unfold in a rather stoic and formulaic manner. Everything is there, from the beginnings of Owens and the rocky romance between him and his wife Ruth (Shanice Banton) to the Olympic Games themselves. I have to say that I’m a sucker for sports movies, and really have very little problems with even mediocre ones. The adrenaline fueled battle between athletes and the limitations of their bodies and minds is an exhilarating and exciting experience. However “Race” has the odd sensation of being sapped all that passion. Sure there are some fun races, but they seem to be mechanical and over way too soon to really get that high level of excitement going.

Jesse Owens is a legend among racers, and if you’ve ever been to Ohio you know just how high the man is raised up over there. There are statues in his honor, and locations named after him in the state, so it was a bit saddening to see what could have been an incredible telling of one of America’s greatest runners dissolve into a slightly bloated run of the mill sports movie. That isn’t to say the movie is bad. In fact it is far from a bad movie, with some great performances by all of the actors across the board and stunning cinematography. The script and directing just couldn’t bring all of the pieces together and raise it to the levels of greatness that could have been. The workings of the film tried it’s best to bring the prejudices of American and Germany to light, but it feels a bit overdone at the end of the day. Incidents are forced and the heavy handed method of having Jesse get bashed over the head with hatred at every turn felt a bit awkward. Especially when paired up with the out of the blue friendship between Owens and German runner Carl Long (David Kross), which actually was a real life event ironically.


Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and language

Video :4.5stars:
As with many day and date titles, “Race” comes to home video with a stunning 2.35:1 AVC encoded transfer that uses a sepia colored film (with a lot of emphasis on browns and honey colored tinges) to give the film an appropriate period piece feel. Contrast levels are well within reason and the resulting fine detail is exceptions. Intimate details like the stitching Jesse Owen’s prized jacked show with razor sharp clarity and the sweat dripping off of the athlete’s body can be seen from any distance. Bits of debris and dirt kicked up off the sodden tracks show up against the focus of the characters and the film shows incredible sharpness. Whether that be close ups or the wider angled far away moments. Black levels stay consistently detailed and pleasing throughout the film, never showing any major artifacting or compressed detail even in the darkest of scenes. Overall a very VERY nice transfer that shows very few flaws at all.

Audio :4stars:
“Race” does an admirable job with the 5.1 DTS-HD MA track, creating an inviting and warm sounding track that captures the excitement of the more intense races, as well as being able to languidly lay back and just relax with the more dramatic moments. The film always has a solid sense of surround activity, with bits of city noise bleeding into the rear channels, or the impressive roar of the crowd on race day. LFE is tight and punch, adding a throbbing low end that comes and goes depending on the situation, and acts more as a gentle accompaniment rather than an overwhelming presence that just HAS to take center stage. Dialog is crisp and defined, solidly balanced with the rest of the rather dynamic track. I never felt like any one portion of the audio drowned out or pulled from the “stage time” of any other portion. A well balanced and distinctly pleasant track for the genre.

Extras :1.5stars:

• The Making of "Race"
• Becoming Jesse Owens
• The Owens Sisters

Overall: :3.5stars:

“Race” is a solid movie, but I had this constant nagging feeling like it could have been MORE than what it was. That’s not to say that the actors or the story was poor in any way, but the tale of Jessie Owens is a powerful story of race, politics and personal triumph and really deserves to be a truly epic filming experience. There's a sense of going through the motions here that can’t be shaken and even though I really did enjoy the film, that sense that there should have been something more just wouldn’t leave. The audio and video are fantastic, but sadly the extras are just a bit lacking. Definitely worth a good rental and a watch at the bare minimum.

Additional Information:

Starring: Stephan James, Jason Sudeikis, Eli Goree
Directed by: Stephen Hopkins
Written by: Anna Waterhouse, Joe Shrapnel
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Studio: Universal
Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 134 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: May 31st, 2016

Buy Race Blu-ray on Amazon

Recommendation: Recommended for a Watch

More about Mike

2,072 Posts
Thanks for the review. I didn't realize Jesse Owens story was made into a film. I liked the trailer. With the time allocated for the film, I am sure they couldn't put everything they wanted into it and that is most likely why you felt it could have gone further with the story. Either way, I am sure they represented him well in the film. I will rent this one.
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