The sport which was most popular world-wide before football, baseball and soccer took over was sculling. Sculling united both rich and poor in being fans of it and thousands turned out to sculling events to cheer on the rowers. The stars of sculling were world-wide heroes. It was also the sport which saw people bet fortunes on single events. Fortunes were made and lost betting on the sport of sculling.
Ned Hanlan (Nicolas Cage – The Weather Man, Gone in 60 Seconds) was a young Canadian who rowed to deliver bootleg liquor at the end of the 19th century. After being defeated soundly by Hanlan in a rowboat race, gambler Bill (David Naughton – An American Werewolf in London) begins to train Hanlan to become a world-class sculler. A boat maker named Walter (Sean Sullivan – Mrs. Soffel, 2001: A Space Odyssey) supplies Hanlan with a boat and also introduces the ‘sliding seat’ to him, which gives him an advantage over the other scullers.
After being noticed on the racing circuit, Hanlan signs a contract with an unscrupulous businessman named Knox (Christopher Plummer – The Sound of Music, The New World). Hanlan becomes infatuated with Knox’s niece, Margaret (Cynthia Dale – Moonstruck, My Bloody Valentine). He has to fight against all sorts of odds to realize his dream to become world champion.
A very young (22 years old) and physically fit, if you know what I mean, Nicolas Cage is the star of this Canadian shot film that was based on the life of Ned Hanlan. It even looks Canadian in its production values or maybe a movie of the week. It seems as if director Charles Jarrott (Turn of Faith) even edited the film so you can imagine where the commercials would have gone; but as he was primarily a television director, I guess old habits die hard.
I guess it was supposed to be one of those sport films where the underdog, despite terrible odds against them, ends up at the top of their sport. It was probably trying to cash in on the success of the Oscar winning film, Chariots of Fire. The difference being is that Chariots of Fire is actually a good film; this one leaves something to be desired. The acting is not the greatest and the story is completely predictable, but it is not offensive though it is laughable (unintentionally) in some parts.