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Review: ‘Sprinter’ puts Jamaican spin on inspiring sports genre

Review: ‘Sprinter’ puts Jamaican spin on inspiring sports genre
David Alan Grier, left, and Dale Elliott in the movie "Sprinter." (FilmRise)

Executive produced by Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith, “Sprinter” tells a standard sports story with all the genre elements we’ve seen before. However, its unique perspective on the Jamaican experience sets it apart from other inspirational athlete films. Written and directed by Storm Saulter, this drama still follows those tropes, but in a different setting.

Akeem Sharp (Dale Elliott) is a good runner, but he’s never fast enough to truly stand out among his high school peers or match the legacy of his brother Germaine (Kadeem Wilson). When his coach (David Alan Grier) makes him switch events, he suddenly becomes the track star he’d always dreamed of being.

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Fame and scholarships at U.S. schools beckon, but distractions threaten Akeem’s success. At home, he has a strained relationship with his alcoholic father (Dennis Titus) and his absent mother (Lorraine Toussaint), while girls also challenge his focus.

The visuals are the film’s primary strength. For his second feature, Saulter displays a great eye with his thoughtfully shot drama that captures life in Jamaica in a way that is rarely seen on screen.

“Sprinter” often moves at a slow pace, and it would have been improved by shaving minutes off its nearly two-hour running time. There are too many hurdles thrown in Akeem’s path, as though single obstacles wouldn’t be enough to drive the story forward. Individual scenes work, but it lacks cohesion as a whole.

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‘Sprinter’

In English and Jamaican patois with English subtitles

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 51 minutes

Playing: 7:30 p.m., April 24, Regal LA Live Stadium 14, Los Angeles, and other theaters theatrically-on-demand

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