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Jockey (A Movie Review)

Updated: Jul 18, 2023

JOCKEY (2021)

Starring Clifton Collins Jr., Molly Parker, Moises Arias, Logan Cormier, Colleen Hartnett, Daniel Adams, Vincent Francia, Marlon St. Julien, Danny Garcia, Ryan Barber, Martin Bourdieu, Aki Kato, Richard Lull, Scott Stevens, Carl 'The Truth' Williams, Michael Ybarra, Joe Johnson, Daillon Luker, Oscar Quiroz, John Shumaker, Willie Whitehouse, Stacey Nottingham, Bryce Donaldson and Colleen Hartnett.

Screenplay by Clint Bentley and Greg Kwedar.

Directed by Clint Bentley.

Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics. 95 minutes. Rated R.

There is a certain amount of cosmic synergy in the fact that long-time character actor Clifton Collins Jr. may finally reach some level of stardom for playing the lead character in the melancholy drama Jockey.

After all, his character, Jackson Silva is an aging journeyman horseman who has been on the circuit for years. He’s reached some minor levels of success and occasional high points in his career, but mostly he’s had to scramble for a buck and to survive. Now, finally, the potential of a huge win is within his grasp, if only he can hang on to it and perform to the best of his abilities. Unfortunately, his body, which he has been neglecting for years, is starting to break down.

With the exception of the deteriorating body (I assume), it is pretty much a parallel story to Collins’ own acting career. He’s had occasional high points – playing killer Perry Smith in Capote and appearing in such acclaimed films as Babel and Sunshine Cleaning and having a substantial role on the HBO series Westworld. However, he’s rarely had the opportunity to carry a film, and in recent years he’s worked steadily, but mostly in small roles in barely noticed films. (Other than Jockey, his 2021 output included After Yang, Breaking News in Yuba County and a bit part in the critically acclaimed Nightmare Alley.)

And now he has the opportunity for that big winner which has eluded him for so long.

On the plus side, Jockey is a triumph for him, the type of lived-experience performance which will make award nomination committees stand up and take notice. (He’s got almost no shot to win Best Actor, but I’d be shocked if he isn’t at least nominated.) On the negative, Jockey is a bit too morose and cynical to become anything other than a cult arthouse favorite. Which is fine, it was never expected to be anything else, I imagine.

Plus, it is a film about the sport of horse racing in which barely any actual racing is shown. And yet, it exudes a bittersweet elegiac quality which is surprisingly effective.

Jockey tells the story of an older man who is nearly at the end of his career ride, and yet he wants to stay in the saddle a bit longer. At the very moment that he is handed what may very well be his last chance for the gold ring, a young man enters his life. Gabriel (Moises Arias) is a groom and aspiring jockey – and he may just be Jackson’s son from a long-ago relationship. Jackson must decide whether to take the youngster under his wing or to save him from the life which has been so hard and often disappointing – and yet addictive to Jackson – before he is also pulled down the rabbit hole.

Jockey does not sugarcoat the world of horseracing. It shows it as a physically and emotionally taxing lifestyle in which the few victories are mitigated by a constant barrage of defeats. It is a dirty, sordid way of life which breaks more people than it creates. Yet it is fascinating for the hold it has on them.

Jockey is visually poetic – it almost feels like a long-lost Terrence Mallick film – at the same time it is often emotionally devastating. And riding on Collins’ hard-earned performance, it deserves its time in the winner’s circle.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2022 All rights reserved. Posted: January 21, 2022.


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