Actors: Skeet Ulrich, Christian Kane, William Devane
Director: Jim Wilson
Format: Multiple Formats, AC-3, Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
Language: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Release Date: April 28, 2015
Run Time: 111 minutes
Based on the true story of underdog horse, Mine That Bird, it is easy to predict the ending of a film which tells you in the title how great the odds were against him. I can’t imagine they would ever call a film 50 to 1 if it were about a horse that lost the race. At the same time, I hardly think anyone would have bought a ticket to Seabiscuit or Secretariat if they though the horse would lose the climactic final race. It isn’t the predictability of 50 to1 which makes it far less successful than previous underdog horse narratives; it is the large sections of the film in which the horse is absent from the screen.
More than being about that one amazing horse, 50 to 1 focuses on the men who owned and trained him, beginning with a barroom brawl meet-cute between the two leads. When horse trainer Chip Woolley (Skeet Ulrich) helps cowboy Mark Allen (Christian Kane) in an unfair bar fight, he solidifies a friendship with a man whose success years later allows him to repay the favor. Despite his awful losing streak, Mark hires Chip to be the trainer of his new horse, Mine That Bird. They struggle to make this arrangement work, going through all of the predictable lulls that we know will lead to an inevitably satisfactory conclusion.
Because we know where the film is headed, the filmmaker’s main task seems to be making this journey exciting and compelling. There are opportunities to show how hard work and/or innovative thinking led to an eventual win, but instead it just comes off as a fluke. The film’s screenplay focuses far less on the horse and the training process than it does the politics of the business and a few contrived relationships within the story.
The worst of these comes in the form of an unnecessary romantic sub-plot between Chip and a hired trainer named Alex (Madelyn Deutch). The relationship itself is distractingly manufactured, forced upon the audience during a lengthy cross-country road trip that distracts from the main focus of the film, made worse by amateur acting best suited for the world of bad mockbusters and straight-to-video family entertainment that Deutch has primarily existed in. It is a bad sign when the horse jockey playing himself in the movie is a far better actor than the romantic lead.
The DVD for 50 to 1 includes a making-of featurette and a blooper reel. Extreme fans of horse racing may find portions of this film engaging for the true story behind it, but they will be forced to endure the other 2/3 of a film in order to enjoy moments with a horse actually onscreen.
Entertainment Value: 5/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 5.5/10
Historical Significance: 3/10
Special Features: 3/10