Director Regan Hall puts cinema audiences under starter’s orders for the 2012 Olympic Games with this unabashedly feel-good drama of sporting ambition against the odds.
We’re jogging in familiar territory here, following a talented 200m sprinter from the wrong side of the tracks, whose raw talent propels her into the British relay squad where she clashes with the team’s privileged golden girl.
Shot on location in London, Fast Girls injects bursts of pace within the sprightly 90-minute running time and puts the female cast through their paces with coaching from British female Olympians Jeanette Kwakye and Shani Anderson.
The script, co-written by Noel Clarke (Adulthood), Jay Basu and Roy Williams, passes the baton from one cliche to the next - forbidden romance, enmity mellowing into sisterly solidarity - culminating in a championship showdown that leaves a patriotic lump in the throat.
Shania Andrews (Lenora Crichlow) lives on a London council estate with her sister Tara (Tiana Benjamin) and trains for the 200 metres on a weather-beaten track with non-professional coach Brian (Phil Davis).
Having run 23.28 seconds in training, Shania beats fast-rising Lisa Temple (Lily James) in a qualification race to book her spot at the World Championships.
Lisa is incredulous and her father David (Rupert Graves) - a former Olympic gold medallist with friends in high places - exerts even more pressure on his daughter to match his achievements.
Following the qualification race, coach Tommy Southern (Noel Clarke) invites Shania to join the relay squad and she gels instantly with 100 metres veteran Trix Warren (Lorraine Burroughs), Belle Newman (Lashana Lynch) and reserve runners Sarah (Dominique Tipper) and Rachel (Hannah Frankson).
However, Lisa runs the relay’s anchor leg.
Tension between the teammates intensifies when Shania develops a crush on physiotherapist Carl (Bradley James), who is also the object of Lisa’s affections.
As the World Championships beckon, the bitching intensifies - “You’ve got Primark written all over you!” - and Shania must decide if she should quit the squad before she is forced out by Lisa and her manipulative father.
Fast Girls is a thoroughly engrossing slice of home-grown entertainment that swiftly tethers our affections to Shania so we root for the underdog in a world of corporate sponsorship and shameless nepotism.
Crichlow is an endearing heroine, battling insecurities on and off the racing track, and her co-stars provide solid support.
Davis adds flecks of humour as the heroine’s unconventional trainer, who is continually distracted by his wayward pooch, Linford.
Race sequences are slickly edited to create the illusion of bodies in motion, straining at speed for the finishing line.
If Britain’s talented athletes at the 2012 Games wear their hearts on their sleeves and risk everything like the characters in Hall’s undemanding film, it could be a gloriously golden summer.
By Damon Smith
:: SWEARING :: NO SEX :: VIOLENCE :: RATING: 7/10
Released: June 15 (UK & Ireland), 90 mins