1994 was a special year for film! This year alone Hollywood will celebrate the 20th anniversary of such new classics as “Forrest Gump”, “Pulp Fiction”, and “The Lion King.” Those three films were all top 10 box office hits for the year. Two weeks ago a little movie called “8 Seconds” quietly celebrated its 20th anniversary with little fanfare, and no reunion on “Good Morning America.” At the end of 1994 “8 Seconds” ranked 71st out of all movies released that year. By no means a disaster at the box office, but nowhere near the hit that the filmmakers hoped it would be. All these years later this film has something that can’t be denied, charm. A movie that can leave you smiling and a possibly a tear in your eye is special. Hang on, don’t fall off, and enjoy the ride!
“8 Seconds” tells the story of a Lane Frost a confident but down to earth kid from Lane, Oklahoma. Since he could walk Lane has admired the sport of bull riding, and the personalities who get on to ride. Lane tells his dad “I’m not scared of anything”, and throughout the film we experience Lane’s journey to be nothing but the best. Luke Perry better know as the teen heart-throb “Dylan McKay” from “Beverly Hills 90210,” does a remarkable job of making you care about Lane in such an easy way, I’m not sure another soap actor could have pulled off. He is a genuinely nice guy, so much so that his fellow rodeo buddies Tuff and Cody joke “they act like he hung the moon.” Lane isn’t drawn to bar fights or taking home every girl who wants his autograph, he’s all about work and one special girl Kellie Kyle. Kellie is a barrel racer from Texas, and Lane is smitten from the very beginning. Kellie takes quite notice of Lane showing young the kids the basics of bull riding, and while studying for final exams witnesses an injury to Lane that would keep most men out of work for a while. Cynthia Geary best known to audiences from the critically acclaimed “Northern Exposure” plays Kellie as a tough but sympathetic woman who is just as comfortable on a horse as she is preparing a meal with her family.
The strength of the movie is in these two characters. You believe them as a couple and they are the kind of people who over a piece of pie or cup of coffee would entertain you for the duration. The weakness in the movie is the supporting performances by Stephen Baldwin and Red Mitchell as Tuff Hedeman and Cody Lambert. As they travel through the rodeo circuit you get a sense that these guys are buddies but never any real back story as to what may be driving them. More often than not they are used for comedy and to stand in the background to remind you that in fact they too are bull riders. Cody does have a talent that I don’t know many guys in particular to have, he can write poetry. However it isn’t until the conclusion of the film that these characters have the lights on them, where thankfully they tug at are heart-strings. A little too late? Yes, but I bought it and every time its effective.
Lane and Kelly get married young and quickly realize it may not have been the best decision for either of them. Lane’s constant travel leaves the couple apart more for weeks at a time, while the bills keep piling up at home. At one point Lane decides purchasing a trailer is the key to his wife’s heart and saving money. “You wanted a place, I got you a place.” Lane explains. “You paid money for this?” Kelly says in disbelief. As tensions mount Lane becomes the top dog in bull riding as he successfully rides one bull after another, except one. Red Rock has never had a rider last 8 full Seconds and Lane accepts the challenge head on. The drama of the bull riding scenes is great but what I still find the most rewarding is that the relationship of Lane and Kelly is what drives this movie more than anything. They both are forced to answer questions that a lot of young married couples go through. Lane is successful selling merchandise and dealing with fans who now want more than just an autograph. Kellie is stuck doing his laundry and driving for hours just to get a quick five-minute talk with her husband. Are they better together or apart? Thankfully this movie takes the time to let the audience see the trials and tribulations of a young marriage. We also get to see a father and son story that has Lane always feeling his dad isn’t behind him. It’s one back-handed compliment after another. This movie isn’t preachy, it doesn’t bore you with over the top action scenes, it is simply a character piece of a hard-working and at times troubled young man pursuing his life long dream.
Directed by John G. Avildsen best known for “Rocky and “The Karate Kid”, “8 Seconds leaves you with some of the same feelings and emotions as his previous work. You didn’t necessarily care about the fight, or the karate tournament, you cared about the people. Unlike his earlier films Avildsen who has preferred stories about underdogs fighting his way to the top. Instead he takes a young man born and raised with values who has always excelled at what he loves, and watches him deal with success and the struggles we all have with loved ones. Avildsen also brings along composer Bill Conti best known for “Rocky and the James Bond hit “For Your Eyes Only.” Conti has just the right balance of exciting music for the rodeo scenes and suspenseful pieces for the more dramatic moments. If you like country music are you in for a treat. “8 Seconds features the talents of Reba McEntire, Brooks and Dunn, and Vince Gill.
While this movie doesn’t qualify as a western I can’t deny that movies that have the country feel are my favorite. It’s very pleasing to look at. The horses, the sunsets, the hard-working way of life is something to be admired. Grab a bowl a chill and a beer or two and settle in for more than 8 seconds I hope and COWBOY UP!