Without Limits (1998) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)
This was kind of a disappointing movie for me. The reviews were outstanding and the subject matter was interesting to me, but I found it totally boring. I kept saying to myself, "how can you make a dull movie about Steve Prefontaine?", but this is the second one.
Pre's life story is perfect for a movie.
|Pre lost the big race of his life. He went to the cursed Munich Olympics, and when they finally resumed, he finished out of the medals in the 5000. Actually, the truth about the race is more complicated. The legendary Lasse Viren won the race with a time that would have been one of Prefontaine's slowest of the year, but Pre got boxed in and elbowed every time he tried to break in the first 2/3. Some people say the other racers agreed to box him because they despised his arrogance, although the movie does not really explore that possibility.||
|The movie makes him seem like a
guy whose abrasiveness was universally loved for its colorful
rugged individualism, rather than viewed as the boorishness often
associated with an arrogant loudmouth, which is how some people
saw it. Prefontaine ran two more
international races right after Munich, but he had lost the eye of
the tiger, and got whupped. Then he had to go back to Oregon to
work as a bartender and try to train while living in dire poverty.
At the same time, the East German athletes and others were free to
train 16 hours a day if they wanted to, an hypocrisy which Pre
pointed out often, to anyone who would listen. What
I think is the most inspiring part of the story was shortchanged
by the movie! Pre got himself back in shape despite inadequate
facilities, running in sub-zero weather, and severe tendinitis. He
just ran through the pain, as was his wont. Then he won the two
mile race in the Sunkist Meet by a hundred yards over all the best
runners in the world, including Liquori, Shorter, and Viren. He
actually lapped two of the runners - how often do you see somebody
get lapped in an eight lap race in world class competition? Now
wouldn't all that make a good, long chapter in the story? Just
when he was rolling toward the next Olympics in Montreal, where he was expected to win
a gold, he died in a car crash at 24, and his blood alcohol level
showed he was drunk as a skunk.
Anyway, great story, right? How could you mess it up?
But the movie is duller than dishwater, as it concentrates excessively on technical insider crap about running, and the subplot with Pre's "pure" girlfriend, which is totally soporific, and should have been shitcanned from the script. (Robert Towne's last movie was Tequila Sunrise, which tells you more than six pages of my exposition. I just don't know what happened to the edge he once brought to his famous script for "Chinatown"). Plus, the lighting is often squirrelly. The one redeeming element of the movie was Donald Sutherland's complex portrayal of Pre's coach. The earlier Disney movie, "Prefontaine", at least got closer to the heart of some of the major issues, but neither was likely to challenge "Hoosiers" in the sports movie pantheon.
By the way, the movie completely bombed at the box, despite excellent reviews.
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