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An aging jockey (Clifton Collins Jr., shown), hopes to win one last title for his longtime trainer (Molly Parker), who has acquired what appears to be a championship horse in Jockey.Adolpho Veloso/Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics / Mongrel Media

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Directed by Clint Bentley

Written by Clint Bentley and Greg Kwedar

Starring Clifton Collins Jr., Molly Parker and Moises Arias

Classification R; 93 minutes

Opens March 4 in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal theatres, with more cities throughout spring

Critic’s Pick

Even if you will never understand the appeal of horse-racing (guilty, no matter how much Michael Mann and David Milch tried to convince me otherwise with their ill-fated HBO series Luck), then you must make time to giddy-up for the new drama Jockey. The chief reason: Clifton Collins Jr., a long-time “hey-it’s-that-guy!” character actor who delivers a lead performance that will finally make you remember his name.

After peppering everything from Traffic to Capote to Westworld to Pacific Rim, Collins Jr. finally gets the starring role of a lifetime here as Jackson, a veteran jockey who has pushed his body to the limit. Facing an uncertain future on the track, Jackson must decide whether he can push himself for one more race, or give himself a break and learn to mentor a new young rider, Gabriel (Moises Arias), who wanders into his life one day claiming to be his son.

The dramatic set-up courtesy of director and co-writer Clint Bentley (whose family has a long history on the track) isn’t exactly novel, but the film’s acute sense of place and specificity of profession lends Jockey an authenticity that is irresistible.

Collins Jr., who lost a whole lot of weight for the role, pulls off a unique trick here: He doesn’t exactly reinvent himself as a performer – his prior supporting performances were always compelling, layered, magnetic – but instead has built upon his decades of yeoman’s work to deliver a leading man fully formed with the scars of a life completely lived. You believe Collins Jr. as Jackson partly you because you have a shared history of watching the actor slip in and out of dozens of other productions over the years.

Open this photo in gallery:

Molly Parker as Ruth Wilkes and Clifton Collins Jr. as Jackson Silva in Jockey.Adolpho Veloso/Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics / Mongrel Media

Add in an ace supporting turn from Molly Parker as Jackson’s favourite horse-trainer and a brisk running time that arrives completely trimmed of narrative fat, and Jockey finishes a first-place winner without even needing to run an actual race.

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