✰✰✰✰ (out of five)
Synopsis: An aging jockey contemplates his legacy and aims for a final championship when a rookie rider arrives, claiming to be his son.
Review: It's about time for Clifton Collins, Jr. The workhorse of an actor who has made numerous appearances in a variety of film genres, finally gets a lead role. And while his performance is exquisite and the character a perfect fit, the film needed a little bit more. While watching, I was so into it, that I was ready for the long race. But after only about 90 minutes, the finish line was there. I was so invested in the beautiful cinematography and quality of the performances from CCJ and Molly Parker that I was ready for that full stride, top prized race. The growth of the story wasn't able to fully stretch out by having this thoroughbred go the distance. The tools and chops were there; it just needed a bit more on the bone from the development of story perspective. That minor squabble aside, CCJ owns this film and this role. I could not help but get a vibe ala Darren Aronofsky's The Wrestler, albeit not so entrenched in the gutter (call this the Lite version). The work by CCJ is as great as Mickey Rourke's in that exam of pro wrestling's dark side. Considering that his previous work was sometimes so small of a role that sometimes he didn't get a single line of dialogue, CCJ gets a tad of bias from me with getting the top-billing, starring role. And he seizes the opportunity. Layered and nuanced but simple and not overcooked, CCJ deserves some attention from awards season. While the race wasn't as full and satisfying as I had hoped, you cannot help but love the player, not the game.