“Cowboy Up”: ‘8 Seconds’ Review
You wouldn’t think that a sports movie would ever have a western motif but John G. Avildsen’s 8 Seconds is just that; a sports romance with a western theme added to it.
Based on a true story, Avildsen’s film follows the career of Lane Frost (Luke Perry) as a professional bull rider; from his early years of looking up to his father to becoming the youngest bull rider inducted into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame. The film also focuses on Frost’s personal life, including his relationship and marriage to Kellie Kyle (Cynthia Geary), as well as his rise to fame within the industry.
A lot of sports films follow a very traditional format (your classic underdog story) but 8 Seconds, with its western influence, is without a doubt a coming of age romance that sprinkles themes of growing up and aspiring to make your family proud. Granted, there are obvious similarities between this and films like Rocky and The Karate Kid (which isn’t a coincidence since John G. Avildsen directed all of them). 8 Seconds aspires to be as good a romance as Rocky and have as much of the “be the best around” motif that Karate Kid is but it sadly comes up short of becoming a true sports classic.
As the legendary Frost, Perry excels in the physically demanding role but with the emotional aspect of the story, it’s a little bit less successful. You’d expect a lead performance in a sports film to be commanding but while Perry’s Frost is charming (especially when he’s confident riding the bull), it just becomes clear that it needs a little bit more of a powerful central performance at its lead. Aside from Perry, the film also stars Stephen Baldwin as Frost’s right-hand man and long-time friend Tuff Hedeman, in a solid supporting performance. Finally, notable character actor James Rebhorn, who plays Frost’s father Clyde, also delivers solid work in the film.
One of the cool things about 8 Seconds is the fact that acclaimed composer Bill Conti actually scored the film. His score, while not as great or memorable as Rocky, actually incorporates some western themes to create a rousing, yet humane and intimate, score. Conti’s score also perfectly incorporates a romantic theme to Frost’s and Kyle’s story.
While the boxing scenes in Rocky were well choreographed, Avildsen’s 8 Seconds also follows this exact same tradition with wonderfully shot bull riding scenes. Avildsen and cinematographer Victor Hammer do a great job of actually shooting the bull riding scenes with a fresh and vivid intensity that fully immerses the audience into Frost’s world. The bull riding scenes, while few, are some of the major highlights of the film as they’re something that isn't that featured in a lot of films but the film does a great job of portraying them.
8 Seconds is not as groundbreaking as Rocky but it’s a film that does have its charms thanks to its well-choreographed bull riding scenes, fine performances and memorable score. It’s a unique entry into the sports genre that gives it it's all, despite not achieving greatness.