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ROBERT REDFORD DELIBERATELY CHILLY FOR 'DOWNHILL RACER'

Robert Redford in DOWNHILL RACER Year: 1969 Rates: ****1/2

A movie has to be about something or someone, and reading any synopsis for DOWNHILL RACER, you'd think the main character, played by Robert Redford, was the biggest jerk on the planet...

And while he is difficult and stubborn, childish and bitter, selfish, aloof and argumentative, aren't all great athletes? At least the ones who have only winning on the brain...

Gene Hackman and Robert Redford in DOWNHILL RACER

Which is what RACER is about: not only striving to win but the formidable urge to never lose. And the U.S.A. Men's Ski Coach, Gene Hackman, along with assistant Dabney Coleman and team captain Jim McMullan, knows right off that Redford's golden-haired upstart isn't a team player...

But what seems to matter one minute is forgotten the next since there's hardly a plot in this underrated, avant garde curio, directed by future comedy icon Michael Ritchie, maneuvering the camera like we're on the snow with the athletes, including strategic P.O.V. shots of Redford's rushing and crushing character Dave Chappellet...

Karl Michael Vogler, Camilla Sparv, Jim McMullen and Robert Redford in Downhill Racer

Not even alluring and intoxicating French love interest Camilla Sparv (quickly willing to love but still very out of the smitten upstart's league) can slow the pace, more a documentary style than the usual sport movie gusto: Absent are the cliché heartaches or feel-good adrenaline-pumping hoorays and hurrahs...

Perturbed lectures from Hackman feel natural and captured instead of a means to develop the characters, which this movie intentionally lacks being more existential than energetic. Meanwhile, the sporadic race scenes occur exactly when and where needed...

Robert Redford and hometown girl Carole Carle in DOWNHILL RACER

Flowing from various competitions throughout Europe to a trip back home within the idyllic yet dismal Idaho Springs, Colorado (visiting his drab, emotionless father and cute yet small-town-contented local ex-girlfriend) all the way to the Olympics, the movie's audience learns about the cold and aloof skier along with his contentedly average teammates...

And by the end... one of the most uniquely suspenseful climaxes ever filmed... you'll want victory as much as he does, which is the entire point and purpose: Redford's Dave Chappellet is simply no damn good for anything else.

Gene Hackman and Robert Redford in DOWNHILL RACER
Opening Credits Freeze Framing of DOWNHILL RACER
Opening Credits Freeze Framing of DOWNHILL RACER
Camilla Sparv in DOWNHILL RACER
Kathleen Crowley in DOWNHILL RACER
Robert Redford in DOWNHILL RACER
Camilla Sparv in DOWNHILL RACER
Camilla Sparv in DOWNHILL RACER
Robert Redford and Gene Hackman in ultra realism for DOWNHILL RACER
Robert Redford in DOWNHILL RACER
Kenneth Kirk, Kathleen Crowley and Gene Hackman in DOWNHILL RACER
Middle to left Jim McMullan and Dabney Coleman in DOWNHILL RACER
Carole Carle and Robert Redford in DOWNHILL RACER
Robert Redford filmed in Europe from DOWNHILL RACER
Robert Redford back home in DOWNHILL RACER
A downhill racer in DOWNHILL RACER
Opening Credits Freeze Framing of DOWNHILL RACER
Review of DOWNHILL RACER by James M. Tate
Camilla Sparv in DOWNHILL RACER
Camilla Sparv and Robert Redford in DOWNHILL RACER
Robert Redford and Gene Hackman in DOWNHILL RACER
Carole Carle in DOWNHILL RACER with Robert Redford
Carole Carle in DOWNHILL RACER with Robert Redford
Carole Carle in DOWNHILL RACER with Robert Redford
Carole Carle in DOWNHILL RACER
Gene Hackman in DOWNHILL RACER
Robert Redford in DOWNHILL RACER
Robert Redford in DOWNHILL RACER
Robert Redford in DOWNHILL RACER with Camilla Sparv
Robert Redford in DOWNHILL RACER
Robert Redford in DOWNHILL RACER
Credits for DOWNHILL RACER
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