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Downhill Racer

Robert Redford , Gene Hackman , Michael Ritchie    PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)   DVD
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
List Price: CDN$ 42.99
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4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Way We Were (on skis) Dec 17 1999
Format:VHS Tape
As a former ski racer myself, I can assure you that "Downhill Racer" captures the essence of the sport perfectly. From the dated ski equipment and race sequences to the European ski resorts, from the edgy camaraderie of the skiers to their common goal of winning in this most individualistic of sports, "Downhill Racer" is right on target. A good skier himself, Redford did many of his own action scenes and seems to have an intuitive understanding of the ski racer psyche.
The stark scenes in Redford's hometown of Idaho Springs, Colorado contrast with the glitz of the glamorous European ski resorts where he races. His old cling-on racer-chaser girlfriend at home is the diametric opposite of the manipulative viper he meets in Europe. Redford is a misfit loner trying to succeed in an alien world, and he knows it. Gene Hackman plays the U.S. Ski Team coach perfectly, balancing his business role in raising money and reassuring nervous sponsors with his job of babysitting the prima donna Redford. After Redford wipes out in an important race and starts to make excuse to his coach, Hackman cuts him down with a classic speech ("the bumps took you out...").
I think there are several basic genres of sports films. First, you have the overblown epics like "Rocky" and the romantic comedies like "Bull Durham" and "Tin Cup." These are essentially Hollywood efforts that just use sports for big Box Office. Then, you have parables like "Chariots of Fire," "Field of Dreams" and "The Natural," and those that are more overwrought, such as "Pride of the Yankees," "Knute Rockne" and "Fear Strikes Out." Finally, there are your nitty gritty slices of sports realism...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
Dave Chapplet is a young man from nowhere who has a chance opportunity to become famous based on his only talent -- skiing. This is an exciting and incisive story about the hype and manipulation of competitive sports, so that sport is no longer entertainment or achievement but a money-making industry in itself. It is also the story of a young man trapped in his own arrogance, searching for something but never quite achieving it, no matter how famous he became, no matter what woman he found. Robert Redford gives one of his finest performances as a man both driven and empty, lost and aloof. The film itself was innovative even in its day, with some fantastic skiing footage and artistic cinematography. The characterizations by Redford and Gene Hackman are sturdy, compelling, and deep. There is a controlled magnificence to Hackman's performance as a man dedicated to the ethic and mythos of sport, just as there is a desperate tension and dismay in Redford's character's attempts to find something satisfying for himself, something beyond a cold, negligent childhood (portrayed in a number of unsettling scenes with his father). There is romance also, which is always a nice touch in a Redford film, but the romance is appropriately awkward because Redford's character isn't capable of anything but a shallow intimacy, and Redford portrays this shallowness surprisingly well for an actor often praised for his deeply romantic performances. What is interesting as well is that Redford's character, Dave, ends up falling for a woman who is very much like himself, lovely to look at, selfish, self-centered, and cool. Quite similar to Redford's The Candidate in some respects, since both films expose the truth behind the myths, Downhill Racer is exciting to the last, not just in the competitions but in the observation of Dave's/Redford's development into a winning sportsman.
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2.0 out of 5 stars For visuals only July 17 2000
Format:VHS Tape
Downhill Racer is essentially, a movie to see only for the terrific skiing sequences. Although there is a story here, Robert Redford's character, a skier trying to make the U.S. Olympic team, is so bland and unsympathetic that you wonder why to care about him at all. Gene Hackman, in an early performance, adds nicely, but this is a film that could be watched with the sound off, and it wouldn't make much of a difference.
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