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Downhill Racer

Downhill Racer (1969)

November. 06,1969
| Drama

An ambitious young skier, determined to break all existing records, is contemptuous of the teamwork advocated by the US coach when they go to Europe for the Olympics.


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betty dalton

When the movie started i was amazed how flashy, fast and impressive the photography was. I thought I was in for a great ride. How could I have missed such an important picture with Gene Hackman and Robert Redford starring in it? I thought I had overlooked a precious movie for many years. But I was wrong. My first thoughts were right on the money: how can a picture about skiing be interesting other then for sport fans? It cant. Not this one. I wont reveal the story to avoid spoilers, although there is not much to get spoiled because the story is going nowhere. That is just the main and only true fault of this movie: an utterly boring story. Unless you are into skiing...What is really good about this movie is the photography. Mind you, this picture was shot in 1969, for those days the speeding downhill camera shots were really revolutionary. Even to this day, the camera work is really enticing. Gorgeous shots. Acting is good too. How couldnt it be, with young upcoming stars like Hackman and Redford. The soundtrack fails miserably though, more suited for a war movie. But hey, they experimented with lots of modern classical stuff, so I praise them for trying to do something out of the ordinary. All the techniques used in this picture are truly up there with the best. But the story is NOT.All this experimental soundtrack stuff, the truly mind blowing camerawork and the great acting still cant hide the obvious fact that the story is dead boring. Still wanna know what the story is about? A new young ski talent goes to the Olympics and becomes successful. Wow. If you think that is a thrilling story, then this is the movie for you. I thought it was going nowhere beyond what one can already see on t,v. during any other sports tournament.


Downhill Racer is a film starring Robert Redford and Gene Hackman. Writer and Director Quentin Tarantino is a big fan of this film which has given it a cult reputation.The reason Tarantino likes it? It is a kind of film that Hollywood does not make anymore featuring the type of character played by Redford. A vainglorious downhill skier who races to win, races for himself and stuff anyone else. He gets selected for the Olympic team and despite Hackman wanting Redford to be more of a team player he has to manage the individuals in his team and get the best out of them. Well downhill racing is an individual sport.We see the skiers racing in Europe, staying in anonymous hotels and even having casual sex with groupies. The film's climax takes place at the Winter Olympic Games as Redford goes for gold.Redford plays a character who is a loner, introspective, shallow and selfish. Even at the end he is still selfish, he is in it for himself. There is no saccharine conversion to think of his team mates or others. Its a singular pursuit to be a winner which is very much in keeping of real life sports people.


"Downhill Racer" stars Robert Redford in his prime as David Chappellet, a taciturn loner from Colorado, who competes with an underdog American team for Olympic gold in Europe. Gene Hackman co-stars as the coach who tries to temper Chappellet's narcissistic and reckless drive for glory."Downhill Racer" came out late in 1969 hot on the heels of Redford's success with "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." Unfortunately it wasn't marketed properly and failed at the box office, but don't let that deter you 'cause this is a great film well worthy of your time.Although the movie is from '69 and therefore has obvious dated aspects, "Downhill Racer" was very innovative in it's time and holds up amazingly well to this day. In fact, aside from the ski paraphernalia & styles, I don't find the film dated at all. It somehow has a fresh quality and plays out like a docudrama similar to, say, "Saving Private Ryan," which was made nigh three decades later(!)."Downhill Racer" is reminiscent of 1966's "The Blue Max" in that both films are about an unlikable loner who is ruthlessly ambitious in his area of skill and functions as a fish out of water in the social circles to which he's thrust. It goes without saying that if you liked "The Blue Max" you'll probably like this one too. Both rank with my favorite films of all time.Downhill racing is an insanely hazardous sport in that the skier can reach speeds of 80-90 mph(!). Needless to say, one bad fall could take you out for life. Downhill is also an extremely individualistic sport, which is well pointed out in the story when a teammate criticizes Chappellet for not being a team player and another guy responds, "Well, it isn't exactly a team sport, is it?" Needless to say, it takes a very certain kind of individual to be successful at downhill -- someone who's ultra-daring and bold; someone with a wild, reckless edge balanced by the necessary discipline to train and compete. Redford effectively plays such a person here. He rises up in the ranks to become the American team's only true hopeful; the coach attempts to somewhat keep him under reigns and criticizes his individualism and recklessness even while he knows these are the very qualities that makes him a winner. Throughout the picture Chappellet and the coach act like they don't like each other at all, and it's true because Chappellet is a loner in the truest sense, but ultimately the coach is squarely on the young racer's side: When it comes time for the vital Olympic run the coach looks into Chappellet's eyes and confidently states, "You can win this." Take note of the stark contrast of Chappellet's plain hometown in Colorado and the glitz of the European ski resorts where he races. Also contrasted is Chappellet's throw-away hometown girl ("Do ya have some more of that gum" -- LOL) and the glamorous self-absorbed babe he hooks up with in Europe (Camilla Sparv of "Mackenna's Gold" fame); she gives him a good taste of his own bad self, if you know what I mean. Also of interest is his 'relationship' with his distant father, a simple country man who doesn't understand his son's preoccupation with skiing and the lack of financial gain thereof.While watching I couldn't help but think of Bill Johnson, the unlikely downhill gold medal winner for the USA in the '84 Olympics. Like Chappellet he was cocky & reckless and irked the European snobs with his bold predictions of Olympic victory. I have no doubt that "Downhill Racer" was one of Bill's favorite films. Unfortunately Mr. Johnson staged an improbable comeback bid for the 2002 Olympics that ended abruptly with a horrible downhill crash in March, 2001, leaving him permanently brain-damaged and in need of constant care. How the mighty have fallen! One cavil I have with "Downhill Racer" is that Redford is playing a person in his early 20s while he was 32 years-old during filming and looks it. But this is just nitpicking. Besides, Redford looks great at 32 or any age (and I say that with a staunch record of heterosexuality).Highly recommended.


Old-fashioned sports drama given very modern look and feel, mixing 16mm footage with 35mm for an exhilarating visual effect. Robert Redford is quite good portraying an extremely self-assured skier from Idaho Springs, Colorado who is picked as a substitute member on an American team competing in Europe; after a humiliating wipe-out fails to derail his ego, he returns to the States for training with the Winter Olympics just two years away. "Downhill Racer", directed by the debuting Michael Ritchie, is a low-keyed character study masquerading as a sports film--and yet the skiing action is what most viewers end up remembering. The two halves are blended together thanks to punchy editing and the handsome presentation (and by the personalities brought forth by Redford and Gene Hackman as the team's coach), though the macho-subdued screenplay is rather verbose. Once we understand that Redford's David is a self-centered bastard, there's nothing much else to him except his good looks, and the women characters on the scene (there are no female athletes) are sex-objects or uninformed targets for ridicule. A few terrific moments, though the opening credits sequence is really cheesy and Kenyon Hopkins' score is occasionally overwrought. ** from ****