Hard Miles Movie Review

This rousing film is about a coach/teacher/friend to students of Ridgeview Academy, a school for troubled boys. Greg Townsend, played by Matthew Modine of “Full Metal Jacket,” and the HBO series “Weeds,” had a rough time of it when he was young. His father, believing that he was doing what was best for his son to grow up the strong person he needed to be to make it in life, was abusive. This being the case, Greg is the perfect man to help move these young men through life.  

Writer/Director R.J. Daniel Hanna and co-writer Christian Sander looked into Townsend’s life and produced a very inspiring, touching film. Instead of letting the young men ever accept their lot in life, Townsend decides that pushing them to do something different that will challenge them and set them on a better course.


Townsend’s greatest love is bike riding. It’s his passion. So, he gathers them up and puts them to work on making bikes themselves in shop class. He tells them if they make it, they can keep it. It’ll give them something to be proud of and give them extra drive to complete the task. After the bikes are made comes an endurance test. Out of an entire class of kids, only four make it, Smink (Jackson Kelly), Woolbright (Jahking Guillory), Atencio (Damien Diaz), and Rice (Zachary T. Robbins). Townsend begins to explain the mechanics of this kind of cycling and tells them that positioning while cycling is crucial, as it is in any other sport. He wants to take them on a 752-mile bike ride from Colorado to the Grand Canyon. If they can get there, they’ll see that the world’s bigger than the box they’ve been put into and may want to break free of.

Townsend isn’t supported by everyone in the school but ignores their negativity, clarifying that the kids are not their rap sheets.


Since the school doesn’t have funds to send them on the trip and it isn’t overflowing in Townsend’s bank account, he gets sponsorship from his bike shop buddy, Speedy, played by Sean Astin, of “The Goonies” and “The Lord of the Rings,” fame. Sponsorship needed to be secured because they needed food, uniforms, and gas for the van that Haddie (Cynthia Kaye McWilliams) is driving and carrying supplies in. Haddie is another teacher. She makes one thing clear. She’s there as support, not as the nursemaid. Her part isn’t that big, but she has a very memorable moment in the film when she tells Townsend about the “flea in the jar experiment” in an attempt to get him to open up about his father. It’s a moving moment.   


From there, it’s a lot of whining and moaning from the guys riding many miles daily in the blistering hot Arizona sun each day. Not long before they’ve reached 100 miles, Townsend thinks of a way to get more out of them. He asks them if they’re pissed off. If they are, they should take whatever it is they’re angry about and push that anger on through their feet. Use the pain. They sometimes want to give up, but he won’t let them. His positivity works for a while, but not always. Their negativity gets to Townsend, or at least that’s what he wants them to think. After getting the youngsters to appreciate their lives for the first time, he shows them that they, and only they, have a choice: to push through and see the Grand Canyon or to fail. It’s their choice to fall or accomplish this goal. When they stop acting like tough guys who can’t be broken, things come together for the group.


Director R.J. Daniel Hanna has made a moving and inspirational film without having his main character pontificate. The score is perfect, and the scenery is absolutely gorgeous. Shot in northern Arizona and at the Grand Canyon, how could it be anything but beautiful? The script is uplifting, and the acting is on point. You have to see this in the theater the first moment you can. Don’t wait to watch this on cable. Also, stay to the end for a postscript and images of the real Greg Townsend with his charges.

Hard Miles

Directed by: R.J. Daniel Hanna
Written by: R.J. Daniel Hanna, Christian Sander
Starring: Matthew Modine, Cynthia McWilliams, Jahking Guillory, Jackson Kelly, Damien Diaz, Zach Robbins, Leslie David Baker, Sean Astin

Rated: PG-13
Run Time: 1h 48m
Genres: Drama, Sport

Distributed by: Blue Fox Entertainment
Production Company: Pensé Productions



tmc.io contributor: ShariK.Green tmc
I'm the Sr. Film Writer and Community Manager for tmc.io. I write, direct and produce short films with my production company, Good Stew Productions. Though it's difficult to answer this question when asked, I'd say my favorite movie is “The Big Chill.” I enjoy photography, poetry, and hiking and I adore animals, especially elephants. I live in Arizona and feel it's an outstanding and inspirational place to live.

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