Clifton Collins Jr. has been delivering affecting supporting work in major films like “Traffic” and “Capote” for over 20 years, but the actor is hardly what you would call a household name. However, a new horse racing drama from first-time director Clint Bentley has placed the Hollywood journeyman squarely in the spotlight for the first time. The result is a performance some are calling the best of his career.
“Jockey” is the story of an aging rider named Jackson Silva who gets one last shot at glory when his longtime trainer acquires a championship-worthy horse. Bentley and his writing partner Greg Kwedar scripted the lead role specifically for Collins Jr., who has never before received top billing in a feature film. (The pair had previously collaborated with Collins Jr. on 2016’s “Transpecos,” which Kwedar directed.) The trio reportedly spent months before production immersed in the day-to-day operations of actual trainers and riders to depict the culture around the sport more accurately. The intimate approach, plus dramatic parallels between Collins Jr.’s character and the actor’s position in show business, makes the whole package an appealing awards contender.
Silva’s trainer will be played by Molly Parker (“Deadwood,” “Lost in Space”), another veteran performer with nearly 100 combined film and TV credits since 1991. Meanwhile, Moisés Arias (“Hannah Montana,” “The King of Staten Island”) will portray a younger rider who shows up claiming to be Silva’s son. The rest of the supporting cast mainly consists of real-life jockeys. The music was composed by Bryce and Aaron Dessner of The National, who also penned the score for “Transpecos.”
The movie premiered earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival, where it caught the attention of distributor Sony Pictures Classics. “Jockey” screened at the Toronto International Film Festival and the Hamptons International Film Festival in the fall and hits theaters on December 29.