Joe Maloney (Brad Pitt) is a senior at a high school in Los Angeles. He lives with his mother (Carrie Snodgress) in a trailer park, located in a high-crime neighborhood. Joe has managed to resist giving into all of the temptations around him. He’s a good students with a clean record and a bright future. He’s a track star and all he had to do is when the big race at the end of the year and he’ll get a scholarship to Sanford.
Joe’s slightly younger brother, Billy (Rick Schroder) is a different story. Billy is always getting into trouble and, because he got caught driving a stolen car, he’s spent the last few months in reform school. Once Billy is released, he returns to the trailer park. His mother welcomes him with open arms but Joe wants nothing to do with his good-for-nothing brother. Because Billy has caused too much trouble at his old high school, he’s transferred to a school in a rich district.
Things get even worse when Billy joins Joe for one of his morning runs and he discovers that he’s also a good runner. Joe suggests that Billy try out for his new school’s track team. Billy does so and soon, he and Joe are in direct competition. With the the scholarship to Stanford on the line, who will win the big race?
With the exception of some language that was probably only tossed in to get an R-rating, Across The Tracks feels like an old after school special. The brothers may not always get along but they learn a lesson. It’s not really a bad movie but it is a very predictable one and, if you’re watching this to see an early performance from future Oscar-winner Brat Pitt, keep in mind that his role is largely a supporting one. Rick Schroder is the star of this one and he gives a performance that, like the rest of the film, isn’t really bad but isn’t exactly memorable either. Across The Tracks was designed to make audiences look at Rick Schroder and say, “He really can act!” but Schroder is miscast as both a juvenile delinquent and a track star. Ironically, Brad Pitt is more believable as a high school student even though he was 26 when this film was made while Schroder was only 20.
Personally, if I had an older brother and his entire future depended on him beating me in a race, I’d probably let him win.