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.