Skeet Ulrich Christian Kane Madelyn Deutch Calvin Borel
50 to 1
50 to 1 is based on a true story in which a small thoroughbred that hadn’t won any races previously was accepted into the Kentucky Derby and out-performed all expectations. When he is offered for sale, Mark (Kane) decides to have an old chum Chip (Ulrich), a horse trainer going through hard times, go to evaluate him. He is small and walks funny, but is a fast runner, has spunk, and is obviously intelligent. Mark is a risk-taker who has faith in his choices, so he banks on both the horse and the trainer, despite the misgivings of his vet and a co-owner of Mine That Bird.
They start with high hopes, but run into an unbelievable number of stumbling blocks, the most significant being Chip’s having an accident on his motorcycle and breaking his leg. Mark has a good friend, Alex (Deutch), who is also a trainer, and he assigns her to assist Chip in training Mine That Bird—to Chip’s dismay. “A girl???” he moans. She senses his disdain, and they get off to a bad start.
50 to 1 starts out like a caricature of a western, with macho macho men, barroom brawls, condescension toward women, and heavy drinking. The script is formulaic and predictable, with corny jokes and slapstick situations, such as a bed sagging to the floor when Chip falls down on it, a carwash that shoots soapy water through the driver’s window, and on and on.
There are some tender moments that make the film bearable, the foremost being Chip’s relationship with the horse. He talks to Mine That Bird as if the horse will completely understand—and maybe he does. He lowers his head in what looks like a “yes”, hoofs at the ground when he is ready to go, and even plays with a water hose as if to suggest he wants someone to spray him or give him a drink. I don’t know if the actual horse did that, but it fit very well within this story.
The film is somewhat redeemed at the end when the whole team and their families are in Kentucky, and they get derided by the traditional Derby types for being cowboys. The title of the film refers to the odds of Mine That Bird’s winning. The race is exciting, especially when it looks like the odds are going to be true.
The experience of the writer/director Jim Wilson and his co-writer Faith Conroy is not strong for directing and writing for either one. Wilson’s experience has been primarily as a producer, and Conroy’s as script supervisor and film crew. As they go along in this direction, I would expect their work to improve. The acting is not bad, but is a little stiff and “stagey” at times.
If you are into westerns and attend movies primarily for fun, you may find 50 to 1 enjoyable.