Saturday 18 December 2010

Movie Review: Downhill Racer (1969)

A star vehicle for Robert Redford, but the star is disinterested and the vehicle badly needs a tune-up. This is an undistinguished sports drama devoid of sophisticated character development and more interested in bodies hurtling down slopes.

As the cocky newcomer David Chappellet bursting onto the national team by virtue of possessing raw speed, Redford maintains a single expressionless expression throughout the film; which is one expression more than the rest of the cast. His teammates are interchangeably faceless. Gene Hackman as the US national ski team coach Eugene Claire is the liveliest character, but he does not work too hard for that distinction.

The love interest Carole Stahl (Camilla Sparv) emerges from nowhere and disappears almost as quickly, Sparv fulfilling the obligations of playing the required icy blonde willing to get a bit naked in return for sharing screen time with a star. And if there are any other interesting people in Downhill Racer, they are hidden behind enough ski racing gear not to matter.

Director Michael Ritchie uses a newsreel style to tell the shallow tale of a rapid rise from obscurity to Olympic glory. The skiing scenes are impressive as generic coverage of a sport, but as the skiers race downhill one-by-one with mind-numbing monotony, so does the film.

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