DVD Review: “50 to 1” Picks The Winning Racehorse

50 to 1

50 to 1 is the story of longshots, as racehorse Mine That Bird beat overwhelming odds to win the 2009 Kentucky Derby. Directed by producer Jim Wilson (Dances With Wolves, Wyatt Earp) and penned by Faith Conroy, the engaging drama will appeal to fans of Seabiscuit and the underrated Secretariat.

The narrative begins at a bar, as Mark Allen (The Librarians’ Christian Kane) finds himself at the wrong end of a brawl. Initially downing a drink and minding his own business, horse trainer Chip Woolley (Skeet Ulrich, great in both the cult-fav Jericho and the all too brief Law & Order: LA) steps into the fray to help save the day. The pair bond over the altercation, and 10 years later, when Woolley needs a job to make ends meet (and save his own business), he calls upon a now rich Allen (who made his money in Alaska).

Though both friends come from opposite ends of the economic spectrum, they are, at heart, New Mexico cowboys who aren’t afraid of a little fun (True Blood actor Todd Lowe rounds out the testosterone driven trio). Behind the eight ball most of his life, Woolley’s fortunes change when he gets the chance to train Mine That Bird, a crooked legged (but fast) racehorse owned by Allen and Leonard Doc Blach (the always dependable William Devane).

Running at 111 minutes, the PG-13 feature is an engaging drama that had enough comedy, heartache, and feel good moments to keep me glued to the screen. I was expecting a by the numbers retelling of Mine That Bird’s story, but thanks to Ulrich’s fine performance as the resilient Woolley and Kane’s believable turn as a humble and loyal horse owner, 50 to 1 doesn’t disappoint. Madelyn Deutch co-stars as Alex, a wannabe jockey who helps Woolley train Mine That Bird. Deutch has innate chemistry with Ulrich, as their characters often butt heads during their road trip from New Mexico to Kentucky.

Director Jim Wilson effectively captures Woolley and Allen’s fish out of water dynamic at Churchill Downs. Though the environment is filled with rich beyond belief owners and their families, the down home New Mexico contingent left Kentucky with their names in the history books. One of Wilson’s smartest creative choices was to cast Calvin Borel, Mine That Bird’s jockey, to play himself, lending the feature an added level of authenticity. During the film’s final moments, Wilson shows photo footage of the actual event which detail the director’s own accuracy in covering the momentous event.

Special Features: The DVD comes with a blooper reel and “The Making of 50 to 1” featurette. Fans of the film should check out the featurette, which features interviews with the cast as well as Wilson and screenwriter Faith Conroy. Wilson’s own underdog struggles to get the film made, even though he’s spent years as a successful producer, are detailed in the featurette (he raised $8.5 million just to get the film off the ground).

A small portion of Skeet Ulrich’s audition tape is also contained in the featurette (Ulrich diligently went after the role as soon as he heard about the project).

Summary:   50 to 1 is an uplifting drama about overcoming the odds, buoyed by wonderful performances from Skeet Ulrich, Christian Kane, Madelyn Deutch, and Calvin Borel.

50 to 1” debuts April 28, 2015 on DVD and Digital HD from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

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