Race (2016)

TOMATOMETER

Critic Consensus: Race is nowhere near as thrillingly fleet or agile as its subject, but the story -- and a winning central performance from Stephan James -- are enough to carry it over the finish line.

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Movie Info

Race is based on the incredible true story of Jesse Owens, the legendary athletic superstar whose quest to become the greatest track and field athlete in history thrusts him onto the world stage of the 1936 Olympics, where he faces off against Adolf Hitler's vision of Aryan supremacy. Race is an enthralling film about courage, determination, tolerance, and friendship, and an inspiring drama about one man's fight to become an Olympic legend. (c) Focus

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Cast

Stephan James
as Jesse Owens
Jason Sudeikis
as Larry Snyder
Jeremy Irons
as Avery Brundage
Carice van Houten
as Leni Riefenstahl
William Hurt
as Jeremiah Mahoney
Eli Goree
as Dave Albritton
Shanice Banton
as Ruth Solomon
David Kross
as Carl "Luz" Long
Jonathan Higgins
as Dean Cromwell
Tony Curran
as Lawson Robertson
Barnaby Metschurat
as Josef Goebbels
Chantel Riley
as Quincella
Vlasta Vrana
as St-John
Shamier Anderson
as Eulace Peacock
Jesse Bostick
as Ken Seitz
Moe Jeudy-Lamour
as Mel Walker
Gaetan Normandin
as Frank Wykoff
Dondre Octave
as Ralph Metcalfe
Jeremy Ferdman
as Marty Glickman
Giacomo Gianniotti
as Sam Stoller
Tim McInnerny
as Charles Sherrill
Jonathan Aris
as Alfred J. Lill
Nicholas Woodeson
as Fred Rubien
Larry Day
as Francis Schmidt (Football Coach)
Jon McLaren
as Trent (Ohio Quarterback)
Michele Lonsdale Smith
as Emma Owens (Mother)
Andrew Moodie
as Henry Owens (Father)
Adrian Zwicker
as Adolf Hitler
Bruno Bruni
as Hans Ertl
Marcus Bluhm
as Wolfgang Furstner
Glynn E. Turman
as Harry Davis
Manuel Sinor
as Starter Franz Miller
Anthony Sherwood
as Reverend Ernest Hall
Karl Graboshas
as Adolf Dassler
Daniel Harroch
as Desk Clerk (Nebraska Hotel)
Matthew Keyes
as Reporter
Ricky Watson
as Reporter
Milo Larratt
as Kid (in Hotel Commodore Elevator)
Anian Zollner
as Hans Vons Tschammer
Eric Davis
as Official (Ferry Field)
Stefan Langel
as Brownshirt
Tim Post
as Phil Diamond (Head Timer Ferry Field)
Lucinda Davis
as Beauty Parlor Boss
John Maclaren
as Announcer (Ferry Field)
Jaa Smith-Johnson
as Sylvester Owens (Brother)
James R. Murray
as Brownshirt
Rodney Ramsey
as Henry Jr. Owens (Brother)
Hank Palmer
as Quincy Owens (Brother)
Jacquy Bidjeck
as Laverne Owens (Sister)
Yvanna-Rose Leblanc
as Gloria Owens (4 Years Old)
Kayla Stewart
as Gloria Owens (2 1/2 Years Old)
Jeff Burrell
as US Radio Announcer
Carlo Mestroni
as Announcer (Boxing Match)
Arthur Holden
as Announcer (Radio & USC)
Kimberly Youance
as Local Girl #1
Andrea Carter
as Local Girl #2
Jana Reinhardt
as Jewish Woman
Aiza Ntibarikure
as Jazz Singer
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News & Interviews for Race

Critic Reviews for Race

All Critics (148) | Top Critics (36)

A glossy, superficial biopic set in a historical context that begs for more, Race can at least claim to be one of the two best movies ever made about Olympic hero/Hitler-embarrasser Jesse Owens.

Feb 23, 2016 | Rating: 3.5/5 | Full Review…
Toronto Sun
Top Critic

A wallpaper-thin but sentimentally effective hagiography.

Feb 22, 2016 | Full Review…

The bare necessities are there, the performances are competent, and there are some strong moments but Race suffers from a lack of ambition. It's too safe and that quality mutes its impact and limits its ability to be more than a history lesson.

Feb 21, 2016 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

Race is the most timid, lackadaisical movie that could have been made out of potentially classic material.

Feb 19, 2016 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…

Where is Owens in all of this? By the end of Race, we don't know much more about him as an individual than we did when the movie began.

Feb 19, 2016 | Full Review…

Race follows the pattern of so many other sports biopics in which it's white patronage that makes black triumphs possible.

Feb 19, 2016 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Race

True stories about athletes have been the same for decades. An unlikely man becomes the champion in a sport that nobody believed he could. It is has almost become a custom for films of this type, so it all comes down to whether or not the writing does anything new and clever to draw a crowd. While I do not believe Race is the film to win over any new viewers of this particular genre, it is definitely a heartfelt depiction of its main focus in Jesse Owens. Here is why I believe Race is better than the average true story about an athlete, while still following the same tired formula. Against all odds, Jesse Owens (Stephan James) goes from living in a lower-class home with a fairly large family, to very quickly becoming globally known as one of the most talent olympians in history, at the time. Taking place in the mid 1930's and dealing with racism and rights, Race has many more meanings to its title. That is by far the most compelling aspect about this film. The fact that this man was able to sound out the chatter being thrown at him on a daily basis and just focus on his dream, was absolutely inspiring to say the least. That being said, although the core story in Race is compelling, the pacing and lack of excitement is sorely absent. We live in a time where audience members demand superhero battles every 30 seconds in order to be entertained, forgetting about the fact that there are some truly great dramas out there every year that go under the radar. While Race is not a fantastic film that I think should have been seen by everyone, its story is definitely worth the price of admission. On the other hand, the racing throughout this film hardly ever embraces the use of fast or slow motion, leaving out any opportunity to feel what each character is feeling in the moment. Each race plays out more like a live-television event, but if that it what they were going for, job well-done. I personally felt extremely let down by this, feeling no sense of excitement, and being a 130-minute film, it began to drag fairly quickly. Pairing Jason Sudeikis as his mentor was a very questionable choice right off the bat, but quite honestly, he may just be the best part of this film. The deep character moments between him and Stephan James were tremendous and you truly believed that they shared this chemistry in real life. James' chemistry with his significant other, played enjoyable well by Shanice Banton, was off the charts and had me slightly tearing up every time they were on screen together. Of all the great character moments throughout this film, you would think that it would be a more compelling story, but the core of this film is about Owens' racing, which is probably the least interesting aspect about it. While I was able to find much more enjoyment than disappointment throughout the duration of this picture, it goes without saying that it could have been a much tighter script in the end. Overall, Race embraces its core characters and fleshes them out very well, but leaves the real story slightly muddled in the final act. It feels about 20-30 minutes too long, and yet I still found myself needed more, which is definitely due to the slightly boring screenplay. Did I believe everything that was happening? Yes, but it did feel dragged out and overlong. Race is a great cable watch, but not something you have to rush out and see.

KJ Proulx
KJ Proulx

Super Reviewer

½

With a title that is considered a dual meaning (the type of event shown and the racial discrimination), Race is an interesting biopic on Jesse Owens and how he managed to defy the odds and compete in the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games. Not knowing much about Jesse Owens, I was completely captivated. A class act performance by Sudeikis who should be in way more drama films as the guy can obviously act! Stephan James was also excellent as Jesse Owens and also looked the part. There are a few issues; the film tries too hard to showcase the racial discrimination (especially when at the Olympic Games) and focusses too much on Owens' love life for my taste.

Luke Andrews
Luke Andrews

Super Reviewer

Destined to put American children to sleep in thousands of eighth grade classrooms across the country here paradoxically is a work that chooses to point out the evils of racism all while racist itself, like the town drunk railing against alcoholism as closing time in the bar approaches. While it discusses that Americans had no right to hold their noses at infamous Nazi racism against Jews, the work itself grants Mr. Owens (whose story this supposedly is) only the most cursory of glances. Still, it is so inoffensively offered that it's very mediocrity it will be presented as bonafide history, the work as bonafide work, mainly because as I write this (2016) no one has seen fit to yet give the man his due..

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer

In 1936, Jesse Owens (Stephen James) is an American track star that seems destined for magnificent glory. Under the guidance of his coach, Larry Snyder (Jason Sudeikis), from THE Ohio State University, Owens is smashing track and field records. The culmination of his athleticism occurs at the Berlin Olympics, where Owens earns multiple gold medals and shows Adolph Hitler just how masterful his master race is. It's difficult to declare Race a bad movie but it's so formulaic and by-the-numbers that I walked away thinking that Jesse Owens deserved a better movie. I kept waiting for the movie to properly communicate the totality of what Owens accomplished, let alone in a time period where the culture at home told him he was an inferior American citizen, and it just never coalesced into a stronger message. We're talking about a man who bested the best of the world in front of Hitler. This is ready made for cinematic drama, and perhaps that's the problem with the screenplay by Joe Shrapnel and Anna Waterhouse (Frankie & Alice) because it always seems to fall back on the lazy and expected choice. Part of this is the reality that Owens was just that good as a runner; we only see him lose once in the entire movie. This anticlimax makes it difficult to stir up plenty of suspense around the larger and larger stages for the sports triumphs. The knowledge of Owen's wins may be commonplace but we should still feel the stirrings of good storytelling and payoffs to well-established work, and that's just not there. I loved watching the deluge of unhappy Nazi reaction shots to Owens' victories (never enough footage of unhappy Nazis) but that doesn't count as a satisfying conclusion to Owens' story. The character of Owens is somewhat lost in Race. It's reminiscent of the Jackie Robinson biopic 42 where the character of Robinson was kind of, well, boring. He's a character who endures the suffering and indignities of others and perseveres, and this is likely why both films turn their stories of African-American tales into buddy pictures with Strong and Supportive White Men. Much of Race is presented as a buddy picture with Owens and Snyder, and both actors have such an amiable chemistry that they sort of treat the entire movie like a laid back adventure. They're easing on through a segregated America and having their buddy adventures. Too much of the movie is Owens and Snyder just cracking wise and going from scene to scene. James left a stronger impression as John Lewis in last year's Selma. He's to often merely stoic without more to work with. Sudeikis (We're the Millers) is right in his comfort zone with his performance and doesn't stray far from his range. I credit the film for not ignoring some of the messier parts of Owens' story, namely his out-of-wedlock young daughter and him cheating on his hometown girl with a fame-seeking starlet. He's allowed to be seen making mistakes, but the movie doesn't allow him to live with them (note: not referring to his daughter as a "mistake"). Whenever Owens might be in a horrible predicament from his own internal decision-making, the movie almost callously breezes by without much contemplation. It's as if every conflict is in service to the Main Conflict - sticking it to Hitler. The pressure to bow out of the Olympics to make a statement about the treatment of black people in America could have been a soul-bearing moment, but we just move along and barely feel the weight of the pressure. Yes, we know that Owens will travel abroad and win golden glory, but make the decision count. Another aspect that dooms Race to its limited appeal is the mediocrity of its direction and, in particular, how shockingly terrible the movie is edited. Director Stephen Hopkins seems to have been in movie jail ever since 1998's Lost in Space. He's only shot one movie between that bomb and Race, which happened to be The Reaping, a 2007 movie I almost liked by its twist ending. He doesn't exactly bring much to the material to elevate the races or seem that interested in taking advantageous of the suspense opportunities. There's one great sequence where Owens first enters the Olympic stadium and the camera tracks his movements where you feel the awe. There aren't enough moments like this that take full advantage of telling Owens' story in a visual medium. The other technical misstep is that this is one of the worst edited movies I've ever watched in a theater. If you generally pay attention to the editing, it's generally a bad sign since it's a facet of filmmaking that is best made invisible. There is one sequence where Owens sits in Snyder's office and the 180-degree rule is broken over ten times... in one scene! The editing will frequently flip is scene orientation, jumping back and around and creating subtle visual compositions that create incongruity in the brain. Part of this blame deserves to be laid with Hopkins, who chose to shoot his film at these uncooperative angles. It was something that bothered me throughout and would rip me out of the movie. The most perplexing storyline in Race involves the very positive treatment reserved for a controversial filmmaker, Leni Riefenstahl (Carice van Houten), best known for her propaganda films declaring the power and righteousness of Hitler's Third Reich. Huh, why does a movie celebrating American heroes spend do much time positively portraying a Nazi propagandist? She becomes a translator for Goebbels and the American Olympic committee, but she's also determined to have her vision respected when it comes to her Olympic documentary that is being produced by the Nazis. She doesn't seem to mind about Owens trouncing the Aryan myth of racial superiority because she just wants to make the best movie and Owens is her storyline. She is portrayed as a sympathetic go-between for the Americans, someone fighting within a corrupt system to maintain her dignity and ownership in an industry that is dominated by men (she's criticized for wearing "masculine" clothing). I'll admit a general ignorance to Riefenstahl's life and career outside of her most famous documentaries, which I should continue to stress are Nazi propaganda films, but this woman was a member of the Nazi party and responsible for some of the most indelible and damaging imagery justifying Hitler's genocide, and to prop her up as a character worth rooting for and a champion to Owens just felt wrong. Has there ever been a more self-satisfied yet facile title than Race? The double meaning is a bit too obvious and yet simple enough to be annoying. In a way, the title encapsulates the movie as a whole. It's well-meaning but far too by-the-numbers and satisfied that it's doing Important Work honoring an American sports legend when it's barely giving us much of a reason to care about him as a person and less reason to root for him other than added Nazi discomfort. Owens becomes a boring centerpiece in his own movie, and his relationship with Snyder feels too ill defined, repeatedly approaching buddy comedy. The historical asides are momentarily interesting but don't add up to much. The movie has some strikingly awful editing and lackluster direction that hobbles the storytelling. It's a movie that hits all the checklists for sports biopic but won't veer to far from its predicated formula. There's a short scene at the very end that hints at what kind of better movie Race might have been. After his worldwide validation at the Berlin Olympics, Owens comes home to America and is forced to use the service entrance for his own honorary dinner. This American hero has to shamefully take the back entrance to be celebrated. It's a stark wake-up call just how far the country had to go as far as race relations. This national cognitive dissonance, celebration and segregation, would be ripe for a searing human drama with plenty of emotion. That would be a good movie. Race is only an okay movie, and given Owens' place in history, that's not good enough. Nate's Grade: C+

Nate Zoebl
Nate Zoebl

Super Reviewer

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