Ray Dokes (Luke Kirby) is fresh out of prison. Returning home, he discovers the countryside of his youth transformed. Urban development crawls across the pastoral fields like a rash. Determined to stay out of trouble, Ray heads to the farm of his old friend Pete (Keith Carradine), a Texan cowboy, whose debts are growing faster than his corn. Sonny Stanton (Noam Jenkins), the heir to a thoroughbred dynasty, is buying the entire concession of farmland to build a golf course. One of the farms he's after belongs to Etta Parr (Lisa Ray), Ray's old flame. Seems she's the only one brave enough to stand in Sonny's way. Ray hooks up with Chrissie (Rachael Leigh Cook), a kick-ass jockey, and tries to steer clear of Sonny. When a million-dollar thoroughbred goes missing from the Stanton Stables, Sonny gets desperate and forces the sale of the community's remaining farms. Ray reacts by coming up with a scheme to stop Sonny once and for all. One false move will land Ray back in jail.
If you believe that synopsis printed on the back of the DVD sleeve, that this is a "powerful film full of thoroughbred racing, guns and romance", you'll be in for a surprise because either the writer hasn't seen the movie or is fibbing right through his or her teeth. Powerful film this is not, rather it's extremely lightweight in its treatment of both story and characterization. Thoroughbred racing? You'll be better off with Seabiscuit rather than a handful of half-races seen here with zero excitement. And romance? All it has was a case of unrequited love and a one-night stand.
Based on a novel by Brad Smith, I suppose the film had probably wagered upon the author's fan base to lap this Canadian film up. Unfortunately there aren't many selling points in the film, with a relatively unknown cast taking on a very simple problem that could have been more interesting if done as an action film, similar to how The Rock did it in The Rundown. Everything in the narrative seemed to coast very evenly from start until end, and you'd start to wonder when something will be shaken so that everyone will have that sense of urgency to deal with their problems, and not pay lip service and mope around.
The film opens with chief protagonist Ray Dokes (Luke Kirby) being released from prison from busting the leg of his enemy Sonny Stanton (Noam Jenkins), a rich brat who's eyeing to buy up land in the farming neighbourhood to fuel his desire to operate an elitist golfing resort. Ray finds lodging with a Texan cowboy Pete Culpepper (Keith Carradine) who becomes his wise-old advisor, while finding time to romance a foul mouthed race jockey Chrissie (Rachael Leigh Cook) and pining at the same time for his old flame Etta Parr (Lisa Ray).
Everyone, and I mean everyone, is in some need of serious money in the story. Ray is beginning to find his feet back in society, his friend Pete has a number of bills to pay, Etta contemplates selling her ranch to the devil to raise cash, Chrissie needs to hold down a permanent job, and villain Sonny finds out that his family's assets get frozen, and he's neck deep in debt to settle with other bigger fish out there. To make matters worse, Sonny's prized horse gets stolen, which sort of provides a much needed lift for the film, as everything was pretty laid back in style, very much akin to a small town lifestyle.
So after an hour or so of everyone moaning, Ray hatches a plan to ensure everyone gets what they want from the particular stolen horse incident. But don't go expecting any big bang, slick execution of a well thought out plan. As I already mentioned, it's all pretty laid back, so you'll continue to have to watch this trot all the way to the finale in a very even pace, with nary any sense of danger of the plan going awry, because there isn't any bandwidth to begin with, for surprises in stored for an audience.
If you're looking for a face paced film as the synopsis would have suggested, with race horses, shady characters and all, you'll be very much disappointed with this very plain affair that develops with no sense of urgency, and without solid drama nor characterization to keep you engaged.
SPECIAL FEATURES :
This Code 3 DVD contains no extra features.
Anamorphic widescreen presentation for an unremarkable film, coupled with Dolby Surround stereo that doesn't bring out the atmosphere of a full fledged horse race.
by Stefan Shih
Posted on 21 July 2009