DVD Talk
Release List Reviews Shop Newsletter Forum DVD Giveaways Blu-Ray Advertise
Reviews & Columns
Reviews
DVD
TV on DVD
Blu-ray
International DVDs
Theatrical
Adult
Video Games

Features
Collector Series DVDs
Easter Egg Database
Interviews
DVD Talk Radio
Feature Articles

Columns
Anime Talk
XCritic.com
DVD Stalk
DVD Savant
High-Def Revolution
Silent DVD

discussion forum
DVD Talk Forum
Resources
DVD Price Search
Customer Service #'s
RCE Info
Links

DVDTalk Info
Review Staff
About DVD Talk
Advertise
Newsletter Subscribe
Join DVD Talk Forum
DVD Talk Feeds


Special Offer

Search: For:
Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Hard Road
The Hard Road
Other // Unrated // November 25, 2003
List Price: $24.99 [Buy now and save at Thehardroad]
Review by Holly E. Ordway | posted November 28, 2003 | E-mail the Author
C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
this review to a friend
P R I N T
Printer Friendly
The movie

You think finishing the Tour de France is hard? So it is... but what's maybe even harder is earning the privilege of even riding in that race at all. When we watch bicycle racing's superstars duke it out over the yellow jersey, it's sometimes easy to forget that even the lowliest domestique, carrying water bottles to the team leader, is a fantastic athlete who worked hard to earn a spot on the team. Where do these riders get their start? What's it like to be a rookie professional, trying to win races and get noticed by the "big boys" while on a team with a shoestring budget? Well, the title of Jamie Paolinetti's documentary on the first-year pro team Net Zero is revealing: it's The Hard Road.

The Hard Road follows veteran pros Paolinetti and Graham Miller as they work with six rookies on the newly formed Net Zero team. We're given a true insider's view throughout the team's first season, following the team as they train, race, travel, and grapple with the personal issues of trading in a more conventionally "successful" career for the uncertainties and sacrifices of a pro racing career. Paolinetti is unflinching in his examination of the trials and tribulations of the racing life: from the sadness of being left behind because there's not enough money to fly all the team members to an important race, to a rider's disappointment at doing his best and finding that it just wasn't good enough, there's the potential for a lot of pain here. But at the same time, The Hard Road shows the rewards that keep these riders working two jobs and sacrificing their social lives in order to hit the road day in and day out: we get to know the riders and see what racing means to them, andwe experience the high points in the season that make all the sacrifices worthwhile.

I'm a big fan of professional bicycle racing, but before watching this film I was only familiar with European racing, not the U.S. domestic scene. The Hard Road does an outstanding job of illuminating that scene, and it will be doubly fascinating to anyone who races at the amateur level. We see the hierarchy of the larger domestic pro teams like Saturn, Mercury, or 7up, the smaller pro teams like Net Zero, and the larger pool of amateur racers that the domestic teams draw their riders from.

Running an hour and 46 minutes, The Hard Road is a full feature-length film, but it seems to be much shorter on account of how engrossing it is. The film is extremely well paced and intelligently put together, with an excellent voiceover narration (by Keith David) tying the whole thing together. The film as a whole follows a chronological structure, tracing the team's efforts over the course of a full racing season; interwoven into this narrative are interviews with the riders and other people involved with the U.S. domestic racing scene, from the riders' families to Frankie Andreu, whose career embodies everything that the Net Zero riders are working for. Both the narrative voiceover and the interviews are interesting and well edited, except for the odd tendency for there to be too short a pause between the narrator's sentences at times, making the narrator sound hurried.

The only real quibble I have with the structure of The Hard Road is that it places some of the useful explanatory material a bit too late in the film. For viewers who aren't familiar with bicycle racing, it would have been useful to have terms like "criterium" explained early on. I was also chafing a bit at what seemed to be an exaggeration of the level at which teams like Net Zero raced at, until an interview segment with Frankie Andreu late in the film puts the U.S. domestic racing scene into the larger context of international racing.

The Hard Road provides a fascinating slice of life of the U.S. bicycle racing scene... and by the end of the film, we appreciate even more what a "hard road" it truly is to become a successful professional cyclist. The Net Zero riders have given up a tremendous amount to follow their dreams and become professional bicycle racers... when we appreciate that they're simply on the bottom rung of a new ladder, with many difficult rungs to climb yet ahead of them, their determination is even more impressive.

The DVD

Video

The Hard Road is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1, and offers a solid viewing experience, especially considering that it's often filmed under less than ideal conditions. The image is clean and crisp, with natural-looking colors and a reasonable amount of detail; the print is nicely free of noise or flaws. The only part of the film that doesn't look as good is the race coverage that's taken from broadcast TV footage, which is much blurrier and noisier. However, this is simply due to the lower quality of the original material, not the DVD transfer. Overall, The Hard Road offers a pleasing image.

Audio

The Hard Road's Dolby 2.0 soundtrack is satisfactory, though it varies in quality depending on the circumstances in which it was recorded. Most importantly, the narrative voiceover is always very clear and completely understandable, and the track as a whole sounds satisfactory. Some of the interview scenes, recorded in the open air, have a distinct background hiss, but it generally doesn't interfere with understanding the speaker; the indoor interviews and most of the outdoor ones are clean-sounding.

Extras

This is well and truly a bare-bones DVD: there's not even a menu screen. There are chapter stops, however, which is convenient.

Final thoughts

The Hard Road takes us on a compelling voyage with the members of the Net Zero professional bicycle racing team, showing us the ups and downs of a challenging season as the two veteran cyclists try to lead their rookie squad to success in everything from local criteriums to the U.S. National Championships. Anyone who enjoys bicycle racing at all will love it, particularly anyone who follows the amateur scene: this is a first-hand look at what it takes to be a pro. More than that, though, The Hard Road is a very well done and engaging film that has a lot to offer any viewer: it's highly recommended.

Find the lowest price for 'The Hard Road'
Popular Reviews
1. Welcome Back, Kotter: The Complete Series
2. Legend of Hell House
3. Last Man Standing Season 1
4. Chaplin's Mutual Comedies
5. Wilfred Season 3
6. Dragon Ball Z: Season 6
7. The Walking Dead: Season 4
8. Rosemary's Baby (2014)
9. Herzog: The Collection
10. Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!: The Criterion Collection


Special Offers
DVD Blowouts
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
Alien [Blu-ray]
Buy: $19.99 $9.99
8.
9.
10.
Special Offers
Release List Reviews Shop Newsletter Forum DVD Giveaways Blu-Ray Advertise
Copyright 2014 DVDTalk.com All Rights Reserved. Legal Info, Privacy Policy, Terms of Use