(PG-13, 135 minutes, Focus): The biopic “Race” focuses on the most dramatic stretch of African American Olympian Jesse Owens’ life, culminating with his 1936 victories in four events in Berlin, while also examining the implications of U.S. participation in those Nazi-organized games. The film is handsomely mounted and provides a window into the tough choices Owens faced, yet its dramatic licenses oversell its message.
Stephan James plays Owens as a good-hearted kid who slowly comes to understand what it means to lead by example. As legendary Ohio State coach Larry Snyder (Jason Sudeikis) tells him, it is the winner – and not the winner’s skin color – that matters on the track. Director Stephen Hopkins never succumbs to depicting Owens in slow-motion, and all the footage of his events conveys his natural ability and a love of sport.
The drama is strongest when it is the most intimate. The best scenes in “Race” involve Owens’s struggles with the NAACP, whose leaders suggested he shouldn’t go to Berlin. So it’s all the more frustrating when the film embellishes history. Such dramatic license suggests that Hopkins does not trust his audience nor his own gifts.
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Contains mature thematic elements and coarse language. Washington Post
‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’
(PG-13, 107 minutes, Sony): “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” is a Jane Austen-inspired horror-soaked rom-com boasting the sort of sumptuous visuals we crave from period fare, surprisingly grounded performances, exquisite costumes and audacious comedy.
The film opens with a neighborly call to a rural mansion by the handsome Fitzwilliam Darcy (Sam Riley), a gentleman of fine clothes and finer diction. He warns the guests gathered at the lavish estate that there may be a few of them about to succumb to the undead infection that has for years troubled the kingdom.
Lily James plays Elizabeth Bennet, who, like her four lovely sisters, has been instructed in the art of self-defense through combat study abroad in China. Battling the undead presents Lizzie with a grander scope for her action, and honors English literature’s long fascination with corpses, crypts, murder, opium dens and the use of lime pits to dissolve bodies. Not that the film is that ghastly.
While the Bennet girls shoulder rifles and wear sheathed knives on their impressive thighs, the violence is at most 5 percent of the film. The story is still at center a romance.
Contains zombie violence and action, and brief suggestive material. Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
(R, 116 minutes, Open Road Films): “Triple 9” is a twisted tale of dirty cops, mobsters and thieves. It imagines a world where vets of the war in Iraq, whether private security contractors or official military personnel, become cops and crooks, sometimes putting their tactical training to use for nefarious, profit-driven purposes. But they aren’t the ones pulling the strings – that would be the mafia led by Irina (Kate Winslet), the Machiavellian wife of an imprisoned mob boss.
The heist crew is Mike (Chiwetel Ejiofor), Marcus (Anthony Mackie), Franco (Clifton Collins Jr.), Russell (Norman Reedus) and his brother Gabe (Aaron Paul). Within “Triple 9,” there’s a subplot reminiscent of “Training Day,” as Marcus takes on a new partner, Chris (Casey Affleck).
Hillcoat directs with a sense of immediacy and grimy realism, bringing the audience into the shootouts and bloodshed on the streets. Atlanta becomes another war zone for the men who have seen war, battling an enemy of a different race and culture.
“Triple 9” loses steam as it attempts to wrap up the complicated character arcs, but proves to be a satisfying crooked-cop heist thriller, imbued with complicated topical issues that last long after the adrenaline rush.
Contains for strong violence and language throughout, drug use and some nudity. Los Angeles Times
Also out May 31
- “Gods of Egypt”
- “City of Women”
- “Imba Means Sing”
- “Suits: Season 5”