'4 Minute Mile': SIFF Film Review

4 Minute Mile Film Still - P 2014
Courtesy of SIFF

4 Minute Mile Film Still - P 2014

Sports-redemption tale adds little to its patchwork of cliches.

Richard Jenkins plays a washed-up coach who sees greatness in Kelly Blatz's would-be track star.

SEATTLE – A sports film as straightforward as its title, Charles-Olivier Michaud's 4 Minute Mile offers a teen runner who rises above his troubled home environment when a has-been coach recognizes the greatness within him. A sympathetic performance by Richard Jenkins (try guessing which role he plays) does little to dispel the stale atmosphere here; the oft-told tale offers no twist that might attract much attention in theatrical release.

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Kelly Blatz, as would-be track star Drew, is little more than a glum hunk here, though it's unfair to expect him to do much with the part as penned by Josh Campbell and Jeff Van Wie. Drew's entire world is defined by the overdose death of his father 10 years ago, the subsequent collapse of his mother (Kim Basinger) and the vices of brother Wes (Cam Gigandet). Drew is oddly willing to pretend not to know what's in the packages he runs back and forth between Wes and Eli (Rhys Coiro), the kind of drug dealer who owns a fish shop and conducts all his drug business while wielding a gut-covered fillet knife.

Running home angrily from a drop-off he didn't want to make, Drew attracts the attention of Jenkins' Coleman, who offers to play Mr. Miyagi and help him get to the all-state track competition. Cue scenes of grueling sprints through water, lugging car tires across the bottom of a swimming pool and pointless tests of the student's patience. In between, find scenes of a heatless romance between Drew and sweet, large-eyed runner Lisa (Analeigh Tipton).

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Gigandet is never really convincing as a drug-addicted big brother whose demons are so strong he can't keep from dragging his brother into trouble with him; nor does Blatz register the appropriate fear over having thugs threaten to make him responsible for Wes' screw-ups. Jenkins hits the right notes, but they're hollow given the film's cheap signifiers of the character's heartache and regrets. That cheapness is compounded in the final scenes, which can neither elicit the elation of victory nor make a pointless tragedy sting.

Production companies: One Square Mile, Phoenix Rising

Cast: Kelly Blatz, Richard Jenkins, Cam Gigandet, Analeigh Tipton, Rhys Coiro, Kim Basinger

Director: Charles-Olivier Michaud

Screenwriters: Josh Campbell, Jeff Van Wie

Producers: Howard Burd, Mark DiSalle, Deborah Moore, Jennifer Reibman, Micah Sparks

Executive producers: Michael Magnussen, Joe Sisto, Jonathan Vanger

Director of photography: Jean-Francois Lord

Production designer: John Lavin

Costume designer: Ronald Leamon

Editors: Elisabeth Tremblay, Dirk Westervelt

Music: Stephen Barton

PG-13, 95 minutes