“The Cyclist” shows off Utah’s landscape by wrapping amateur road cycling races in the Utah Criterium Series around a thin plot. Nash the slacker just wants to drink and sleep as he couch surfs through life, but he reluctantly goes along for the ride as friends push him into training and racing.
Nash the sometime bike racer is an easy going and fun loving guy who trades his easy smile and relaxed demeanor for couch space, dinner, and bike repairs. Instead of Chinese gangsters, drug runners, college students or the spectre of an aneurysm, Nash is troubled by… I’m not sure exactly what. The opening minutes hints that he crashed out of a race, yet he still dreams of victory as he races through Salt Lake City traffic as an indifferent bicycle messenger. Minor plot elements revolve around bullying by the token Manly European (yes yes, I know he’s actually Australian) and indecision about Nash’s commitment to racing. What happens when the story grinds to a halt? You kill off everybody’s favorite character to ramp up the dramatic tension.
In response, does Nash drink himself into a stupor and jump off of a cliff in his journey to self discovery? Or does he win the race and get the girl in the end?
Fine acting, genuinely funny comic relief and race scenes from the Utah Criterium series make “The Cyclist” tolerable. There’s a certain by-the-numbers feel to the story (foreshadowing: ✓; supportive hot girlfriends: ✓; gratuitous shirt removal: ✓; vague references to daddy issues: ✓), but it’s not a bad freshman effort for what’s essentially a self-produced work by a cycling fanatic with financing from friends and family and decent product placement for Specialized, Cannondale, and Mountain Hardware.
The film’s writer and producer, John Lawrence, is a Salt Lake City physician with a passion for cycling. He created “The Cyclist” to honor his friend John Schlesinger, a talented cyclist on the Stanford Cycling Team (and for whom the annual John Schlesinger Memorial Criterium in Northern California is named).
After all, this is a bike movie, you know, and how often do amateur criteriums end up in a feature film? The 90 minute film is unrated, but with a partly Mormon cast and crew it’s about a PG rating. $3.99 to watch it streamed from Amazon. You can probably find it cheaper at your local video store if they happen to have it available, or wait for it to show at your local bike advocacy groups summer bike film festival.
H/T Lynne Watanabe.