Review: "Run the Race" is Well Done, but Heavy
This faith-based film points to Christ as the only ultimate answer, but also delivers a healthy dose of doom and gloom along the way.
Run the Race is a strong Christian movie, well told and particularly well acted. It portrays fictional teenage brothers dealing together with tremendously difficult circumstances, starting with the death of their mother and abandonment by their father. The two boys strive to use their athletic talent to better their lot.
Directed by Chris Dowling, this is the first foray into film for executive producers Tim Tebow, the outspoken Christian athlete, and his brother Robby Tebow, and this picture uses athletics as a backdrop - football and track. Neither, however, is so prominent as to make this a sports movie per se.
The brothers, played well by Tanner Stine and Evan Hofer, live by themselves at the family home. And theirs is a hardscrabble existence: they are forced to work nights stocking grocery store shelves to make ends meet. And though high school students by day, curiously, we never see them in class. In fact, the only time the school figures into the narrative is via the aforementioned sports.
Stine's character, Zach, is a football star and something of a lovable rogue, who has turned away from God because of all his misfortune, while Hofer's - Dave - is the goody-goody and has remained true to the faith. The juxtaposition works well and allows for a thorough exploration of their circumstances and competing world views.
Several other characters serve as foils in the fleshing-out process. The first is their alcoholic father, convincingly played by Kristoffer Polaha; he turned to the bottle after his wife's death and then abandoned the boys. Stine's character treats him with embittered contempt, Hofer's with hope-tinged resignation. Frances Fisher, as their godmother, Mykelti Williamson, as their coach and Kelsey Reinhardt - Stine's love interest - are the three primary positive figures in their lives.
The filmmakers do a good job of keeping this story focused on Christ without allowing it to become "preachy," as the critics of faith-based films always like to say. They also make clear that He alone is the only real solution for fallen man, thus making the film's message hopeful.
Christian Film Blog rates Run the Race an eight out of 10 and recommends that you go see it this opening weekend. But bear in mind, the story is gritty, at times perhaps even out-and-out depressing, which is our primary criticism. Though we feel the reality of life's difficulties should not be sugar-coated in Christian cinema, this film, it seems to us, goes a bit too far in the other direction.