Films about horses or horse riding are a small sub-genre of sports films. When one comes around like Jockey, it’s a rare thing. The studios have made a few movies about horses in the past, but Jockey is a little independent film from documentarian-turned-narrative-filmmaker Clint Bentley.
Jockey is about an aging horse jockey played by Clifton Collins Jr. He’s just going through life as usual until one day a kid played by Moises Arias shows up and tells him he’s his father. This film brings this world into the forefront as no other has before. These actors bring it home in the end. Bentley isn’t pulling any punches with his deep dive into this unflinching world of horse racing.
Bentley has had experience in this genre. He directed a short film about horses and horse racing just three years ago. He delves deep into this world by showing how these jockeys have to train and keep their weight down to be successful in this competitive sport. The next young kid could be your replacement on the track if you’re not careful. Bentley co-wrote the film with Greg Kwedar, a frequent collaborator. They seem to work well together, from what I have seen with Jockey.
Bentley has chosen well with cinematographer Jeffrey Waldron. He has framed the film beautifully. The film has some beautiful shots of sunsets and racetracks around the western United States. There are a lot of shots at night, but they have great lighting and the scenes have a lot of emotion. There is a grain to the film that helps get the feel and texture right even though it’s a tough world the film takes place in. It is very gorgeous to look at.
This story is good in Jockey, but it’s a bit cliched. A stranger comes out of nowhere and claims he’s the son of a successful man or woman. We’ve seen this before. It works from the aspect that the father figure takes the son under his wing and helps train him as a jockey. A world he never wanted to share with anybody let alone a son he never knew he had. He’s not proud of the life he’s made for himself.
Jockey takes the best things about horse racing and wraps a solid story around them. It lacks in production value though, probably because of the budget unlike other horse racing films like Secretariat and Seabiscuit that had big studios behind them. The races could have been done better throughout the film. This film is more about the jockeys though and less about the racing.
Jockey works though, for what Bentley and crew are going for. The cinematography and acting especially by Collins Jr. are the strong points of this film. Bentley’s experience in this genre and world really shows in the end product.
3 1/2 stars
Dan Skip Allen
Founder/EIC disappointment media