8 Seconds

8 Seconds

1994, PG-13, 105 min. Directed by John G. Avildsen. Starring Luke Perry, Stephen Baldwin, James Rebhorn, Carrie Snodgrass, Red Mitchell, Cynthia Geary.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Feb. 25, 1994

Based on the true story of rodeo star Lane Frost, director Avildsen (Rocky, The Karate Kid) returns to the thematic territory he knows so well with a well-done -- if occasionally abrupt -- look at the American pro rodeo circuit and the men and women involved in it. Having spent the better part of my teenage years in Amarillo, I've seen my share of rodeos, including one in 1984 featuring up-and-comer Frost. Arguably the roughest of American sporting events, pro rodeo bull riders (Frost's specialty) must attempt to stay seated bareback on the bull for eight seconds (hence the film's title), an eternity of wild bucking that most cowboys compare to trying to ride a tornado. The film follows Frost from his formative teenage years all the way to his winning of the American Pro Rodeo Association Championship in Las Vegas. In between rodeos, he travels the circuit with his buddies Tuff Hedeman (Baldwin) and Cody Lambert (Mitchell), and eventually meets and falls in love with professional barrel rider Kellie Kyle (Geary). As in past films, Avildsen makes much of his protagonist's stormy familial relationships; this time out it's Lane's father, a man who continually pushes his son to strive harder in a manner that borders on psychological child abuse. Once Lane and Kellie finally marry, things seem to fall apart. Cracking under the tremendous pressure of being continually in the public eye, the marriage falters on both sides, and the couple drifts apart just as Lane is set to ride Red Rock, the infamous unbroken bull that had -- at that point in time -- thrown over 300 cowboys. Many things in this film come across as historical givens: we know Lane and Kellie will marry, we know they'll have trouble, and we know that in the end, Lane Frost is going to die beneath a bull. To his credit, Avildsen makes most of it seem fresh; the rodeo scenes in particular are electrifying, and Luke Perry (Beverly Hills 90210) is dead-on-target as the young, idealistic Frost (he's also a dead ringer for the guy). If there were any questions about his acting abilities, this performance should go a long way toward clearing things up. Only near the end of 8 Seconds does Avildsen falter. Frost's final battle with Red Rock -- practically trumpeted throughout the movie -- is played down when it finally comes, as is Frost's death, funeral, and the whole last third of the film. Faced with real-life events to stick by, Avildsen seems unable to come up with a powerhouse Hollywood ending to match the earlier tone of the film. That's too bad, because with a little more care and polish, this could easily have been his next Rocky.

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More John G. Avildsen Films
The Karate Kid (Mr. Sinus Theater)

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8 Seconds, John G. Avildsen, Luke Perry, Stephen Baldwin, James Rebhorn, Carrie Snodgrass, Red Mitchell, Cynthia Geary

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