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Jockey movie

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Bob Hoose

Movie Review

The life of a jockey isn’t an easy one. If you lose, you’re considered a bad jockey. If, on the other hand, you win, well, it’s the horse, the trainer, hey, even the owner who gets all the accolades. But that’s the life Jackson Silva has lived and loved.

Thankfully, he’s had more wins than losses. (Of course, he’s also had a whole lot of literally back-breaking injuries. But who’s counting those?)

There’s no denying that Jackson has skills on the back of a horse. But even he realizes—from the aches, pains and shaking extremities, to the simple fact that it’s so hard to keep the pounds off—that his battered body is getting a bit old for the sport he’s long been a part of.

Jackson figures he has a few more seasons in him, though. Especially now that his trainer, Ruth, has brought in a new young horse of her own. It’s the kind of pony that Jackson never thought he’d have the chance to mount. In fact, this is the sort of horse that could go all the way. And wouldn’t it be great to slip out of the saddle after galloping at the top of the world?

All it will take is just a little more time. A couple more seasons. Jackson is sure he’s still got that in him. He’ll cut back on the meals. Stop the smoking and drinking. He’ll work out, manage the shakes. He’ll push through and do what needs to be done. There’s no question about it: He’s got a season or two more.

Of course, a casual observer might not be that optimistic.

Positive Elements

Jackson meets another young, up-and-coming jockey named Gabriel who drops the bombshell that he’s Jackson’s illegitimate son from a long-ago casual relationship. Jackson denies it fervently, but then starts meeting with the young guy and helping him out. They train together, and Jackson shares key insights to the jockey trade. Eventually, Jackson comes to highly value their connection and talks of lamenting all the years they missed if indeed they are father and son.

“I wish I’d known you growing up,” Jackson tells Gabriel. “I feel like I robbed myself of something wonderful. … I’m sorry.”

Later, when things don’t go as Jackson planned, he still feels pride in Gabriel’s success.

Jackson also has a great friendship with Ruth, the trainer he works for. And even though the horseracing business forces a change in their working relationship, they both maintain a caring respect for one another.

When meeting with an injured jockey friend named Leo, Jackson speaks encouraging words. Leo laments that jockeys are expendable. But Jackson retorts, “You ain’t expendable to me.”

Spiritual Elements

A group of jockeys meets at a local church as something of a support group. Later a local pastor prays in Jesus’ name for the safety of a group of jockeys before a race.

Sexual Content

Gabriel tells Jackson that he was the result of Jackson’s short-term sexual relationship with his mom. And Gabriel mirrors Jackson’s past tendency to sleep around with female race fans. In fact, he invites Jackson to join him on a date with two young women from the track. (In this case, Jackson declines.) Later, Jackson and several others (including a pair of women) party in his trailer. (Everyone is fully dressed.)

Violent Content

Jockeys talk about the terrible accidents they’ve had and the injuries their bodies have endured over the years—including broken collar bones and eye sockets, snapped arms and legs, a smashed pelvis and fractured back bones.

In fact, these riders talk about the expected fact of ongoing injuries as a jockey. One young guy reports feeling lucky that he had broken both collar bones and both arms and ankles. “But never hurt bad,” he concludes.

We see one rider fall over the head of his horse and then get trampled as the steed runs over him on the track.

[Spoiler Warning] We find out that Jackson’s past injuries are having a much more severe impact on him than he wants to admit. Not only have his past backbone injuries left him with a tremor in his right arm and hand, they also throw him occasionally into a paralyzed state where he temporarily loses all feeling and motor control on his right side.

Crude or Profane Language

Some 20 f-words and a dozen s-words are joined by multiple uses of “h—,” “d–n” and “a–hole.” God’s name is blended with “d–n” on four occasions. Someone flashes an offensive hand gesture.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Both Jackson and Gabriel smoke cigarettes. In fact, Jackson puffs on a cigarette and tells Gabriel that some days in a jockey’s life, “sips of coffee and one of these’ll get you through the day.”

We see a number of people drinking beer and hard liquor several times in a bar and Jackson’s trailer. Jackson and Ruth get drunk while shooting shots in a drinking game. And Jackson gets drunk with a group of friends.

Other Negative Elements

Jockeys forgo eating while trying to sweat off as much water weight as possible before a race. We see the mental and physical strain being a jockey puts on these men. And it’s revealed that some harmful lies have been told.

Conclusion

Like many other films about an athlete near the end—or in this case, the home stretch—of his career, Jockey is something of a wistful and at times melancholy character study.

It’s also very well-acted and directed. And it ushers us into the life of a man who, in his latter years, longs for the love and connection, family and children, he never knew he needed. That personal ache endows this film with heft and heart.

Unfortunately, Jockey also keeps its stable of scenes littered with foul language—the sort of stuff that someone must have thought gave it the smell of authenticity. Instead, those crudities make this a far less enjoyable ride.

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Bob Hoose

After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.