Race Stephan James, Jason Sudeikis, Jeremy Irons. Directed by Stephen Hopkins. Rated PG-13. Opens Friday citywide.
Biopics don’t come much more conventional than Race, a rote, formulaic account of the early life and career of Olympic track and field star Jesse Owens (Stephan James). Owens is most famous for winning four gold medals in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, held under the rule of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. Not only was Owens an African-American representing the segregated United States, but he was also competing in a country that was actively imprisoning and disenfranchising its own minority population.
That’s a lot of weight for one man to bear, but nothing in the movie feels particularly significant, and journeyman director Stephen Hopkins renders it all in broad strokes, with a bland, TV-movie flatness. James is a capable star, and both Carice van Houten and Jeremy Irons have strong moments in supporting parts (although Jason Sudeikis is miscast in a serious role as Owens’ coach). Race gives them too little to do, though, making Owens’ monumental accomplishments into just another mundane sporting statistic.