With less than 50 days to go until the Olympics in the UK, what could be more timely than this film, which combines features of Bend It Like Beckham, Rocky and Chariots of Fire, complete with Girl Power? And it's not that bad.
As we all know, the main problem with sports films is making you believe that actors are genuinely sporty, which is clearly impossible. The advantage of athletics in sports movies is slow motion. Used to great effect in Chariots of Fire, it allows the director to give the illusion of wo/men striving to run flat out, while obscuring the fact that they're moving about 50% more slowly than real athletes. And then you speed the film up as they cross the line, while uplifting music plays to make us all feel good as triumph is achieved against all the odds.
And it works. Athletics, people running against each other, is a simple, powerful formula. There's nothing to understand about rules, it's just a matter of who goes faster. Simple, just like this film is simple – and in a good way. It's not that it's a great film, but it does what it says on the tin, achieves its undemanding goals, and leaves you feeling satisfied at the end.
Shania is from the wrong side of the tracks, or track. Trained by a middle aged geezer with a dog, she's no match for upper class white bitch Lisa, whose dad won a Gold Medal, and seems to run UK Athletics (c'mon guys, it's only a film) – except when it comes to running. Shania has a dad who's disappeared and a mum who's dead, and a sister who doesn't give a toss about anything except partying and boys. Yup, just to make it quite clear, she's up against it. This is the adversity bit, so that when things go well, we all get a big lump in our throat.
Shania and Lisa are rivals on the track and off it. Lisa is part of the 4 x 100 relay team, and when coach Tommy invites Shania to join the team, Lisa is not best pleased. And then there's the cute physio they both fancy. This is a rivalry to the death, and there's only one possible outcome, which I'm sure you can guess. It all comes down to the World Championships in London 2011, where glory or failure awaits our heroines. Which will it be?
It would be easy to be snide about this film. It's not particularly plausible, it's low budget, it positively embraces cliches, and we can all see what is going to happen a mile away. But I liked it. Not a lot, but a lot more than some of the smartass films that cost a fortune and are bathed in special effects. All the actors perform well enough, there are some nice moments – such as when they are chased by blokes and easily outrun them – and at the end of it all, we are left with a nice warm glow of feelgood uplift. What's not to like?
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