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Dark Horse: The neighs have it

Rating: ***

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DARK HORSE
*** (out of four)
DIRECTED BY Louise Osmond
STARS Jan Vokes, Brian Vokes

Brian Vokes and Jan Vokes in Dark Horse (Photo: Sony Pictures Classics)
  • Brian Vokes and Jan Vokes in Dark Horse (Photo: Sony Pictures Classics)

An underdog tale about an overachieving equine, Dark Horse centers on a magnificent animal named Dream Alliance and his triumphs and travails both on and off the racetrack. Yet even though this horse is the marquee draw, the movie is as much about the humans backing him all the way.

In a small Welsh town, a group of working-class citizens led by bartender Jan Vokes elects to pool its meager financial resources and purchase a mare for the purpose of breeding a racehorse. As various subjects note, only the rich can afford to race horses, so when these ragtag folks show up with every intention of entering their decidedly non-thoroughbred (the product of their initial investment) in equestrian events, the whole affair has a Caddyshack-esque "snobs against the slobs" vibe to it. And as if ripped from the pages of a fictional feature like Caddyshack or The Bad News Bears or any other sports saga where the little guy (or, in this case, little foal) comes out on top, this documentary takes some unexpected turns that keep the saga percolating. It's a cinch to be made into a Hollywood yarn, with Helen Mirren cast as Jan and Brendan Gleeson tapped to play her husband Brian. And for the pivotal role of Dream Alliance? I predict Oscar #4 for Daniel Day-Lewis.

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