The Race Track
If you have seen the movie "Gridiron Gang" I can easily sum up Lifetime movie "Racing for Time" as saying it is the same but with teen girls in a correctional facility given hope through running. It has all the same elements, the gang attitude within the correctional facility, the one Guard who wants to make a real difference and the breaking down of racial barriers as they girls transform under his guidance. And to be honest "Racing for Time" is effective, some of the styling is annoying with flashy edits but the heart of the story, the inspirational transformation comes across in a predictable but watchable manner.
As a guard at a Texas Correctional facility for young girls Cleveland "Stack" Stackhouse (Charles S. Dutton) is use to seeing the racial cliques and trouble as well as those who keep on returning unable to go straight whether their fault or not. It is why he decides to do something about it and after persuading Warden Flores (Elizabeth Peña) to back him he starts a group of girls running track, giving them hope and in doing so transforming not only their lives but other girls who see the unity and their change in attitude despite race.
"Racing for Time" starts as we see a young woman, Vanessa, end up a victim of circumstance when her boyfriend hands her the gun he just committed a crime with and she ends up running from the police. Vanessa is not only the lead in to take us to the Correctional facility where she has been before but also is central to the whole movie as it is when Stackhouse sees her turn of speed gets him thinking of giving the girls a chance to run track. Now this opening whilst nicely leads in and establishes how some girls are victims of circumstance is also annoying because this is when director and actor Charles S. Dutton tries to fancy things up with snazzy camera edits, jolting slow motions which do not work.
After this opening "Racing for Time" becomes if you like predictable because not only do we get the usual view of racial cliques within the facility where things boil over and trouble makers end in solitary whilst somehow some of them manage to have drugs smuggled in. And at the same time when Stackhouse gets the girls running track it is just as predictable as slowly they unite, we see the runners despite race become a close knit team whilst those not part of the team become inspired by the transformation in their friends. But whilst predictable right up to objections from schools to the girls entering a track competition it does get across various things such as the difficulties for girls who are mothers and have to see their kids with family members outside to how some are just unlucky and are no different to anyone else. It also does a good job of delivering the fact that in some cases the girls need to be encouraged after a lifetime of being told they are a failure.
And that to be honest is about it, Charles S. Dutton who directs as well as acts is likeable as Stackhouse, tough but also fatherly with a sense of wanting to make a difference in the girls lives. Elizabeth Peña as Warden Flores delivers a nice series of scenes with Dutton with some lightly humorous banter and our collection of girls do a nice job of playing a variety of teenage stereotypes.
What this all boils down to is that "Racing for Time" is a very familiar movie and as already mentioned whilst a true story is a variation on "Gridiron Gang". But at the same time it does what it sets out to do and that is open your eyes to the life of some young girls who end up in correctional facilities whilst inspiring the watcher to make a change.