Monday, August 11, 2008

Review - Hell Ride

Hell Ride

Written and Directed by Larry Bishop
Starring: Larry Bishop, Michael Madsen, Eric Balfour, Vinnie Jones, Dennis Hopper, David Carradine, Leonor Varela
Distributed by Dimension Films
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Running Time: 1 hour and 23 minutes

1/2 star (out of 4)

I remember back in 2004 when Quentin Tarantino pulled some strings and was able to release the Jet Li film "Hero" here in the United States. There was lots of buzz and hoopla around the release. For those who don't know about the subject, "Hero" was released two years earlier in its native country. The only way American audiences could see the movie was through bootleg versions and online pirating. Then Tarantino came along - he believed so much in the film that he was able to get an American theatrical release. The fruits of that labor were box office success. "Hero" did amazing box office for an end of August release, giving the film an overall haul of 53 million dollars. Tarantino became someone who could, just by presenting films to the theatre, lend some credibility to the production. So, by deduction, "Hell Ride" should have some semblance of being a decent movie. That deduction would be dead wrong. "Hell Ride" is an absolute mess of a film. From horribly written and spoken dialogue to plot lines that neither make sense or have any bearing to what is a sorry excuse for a story. From start to finish, "Hell Ride" is an atrocity of a film.

Following the sorry excuse for a plot is actually frustrating, and trying, so I will try and decipher what I got from it. Pistolero (Larry Bishop) is the leader of a biker gang. He leads a rag-tag bunch which includes The Gent (Madsen) and Comanche (Balfour). Since the mid-seventies, Pistolero has been trying to find the killers behind the murder of his beloved Cherokee (who was double crossing the leader of another gang led by David Carradine). There are many double crosses, a war with a biker gang led by Billy Wings (Vinnie Jones), and tons of in-fighting among Pistolero's bunch. This leads to Wings and his crew hunting down Pistolero's compadres. Along the way, wach gang makes time for strippers and threesomes.

There is a sub-plot (I use the word plot lightly) involving a femme fatale named Nada (Leonor Verela) who tries to intimidate Pistolero with her sexual prowess. Yelling out double entendres about sex and her most intimate parts being on fire, Nada eventually physically harms Pistolero in a very strange scene.

Eddie Zero (Dennis Hopper), a retired member of Pistolero's gang, shows up to help out. Playing both sides, he helps lead Wings' gang along. Eventually Pistolero and Comanche corner Carradine's character, sending to hell in a hand basket - literally. This sends a message to Wings who tries to retaliate, failing miserably at it. This whole "plot" leads to a safe deposit box buried in the desert that everyone is after yet only one person holds the keys.

While the film flickered on the screen and I sat there watching it, I couldn't help but wonder why anyone thought this film was worth putting onto celluloid. The characters are hardly even one dimensional, let alone three dimensional. The dialogue they spew is horrible - this is a bad imitation of a bad imitation of Quentin Tarantino. At many points during the running time, I groaned aloud at how badly written and spoken the conversations were. Most of the time, the script is trying to be witty. But what should have been rewritten a dozen times comes off as if a sex crazed fifteen year wrote the script.

The plot is incomprehensible. Every scene in a film should push the plot forward and contribute to the resolution - "Hell Ride" has scenes that neither contribute to the end result and are completely useless. Every scene that Leonor Varela is in has no point. It is just filler and, even then, it doesn't make sense. Granted Varela is a gorgeous creature (an absolutely stunningly beautiful woman), but this doesn't mean that the scenes she is in shouldn't have focus or influence the film.

The performances are universally bad. I have been a Michael Madsen fan since "Reservoir Dog". His performance in "Kill Bill Volume 2" is something to be admired and revered. Even though he seems like he is having fun in "Hell Ride", that doesn't excuse his hammy style of delivery or his wooden acting/movement. Larry Bishop scowls at his friends. He scowls at his enemies. He scowls at the women he has sex with. Sometimes it even seems as if his goatee scowls along with him. But scowling doesn't equal acting. Carradine is the the exact same character he was in "Kill Bill Volume 2" while Hopper wanders in and out of his scenes like a lost child. Utterly disappointing considering the level of talent involved with this project.

"Hell Ride" should have been a throwback to the Grindhouse films - just like "Death Proof" and "Planet Terror" were. Instead, it falls back and stands in line with some of the worst films of the decade. With a brilliant Executive Producer in Tarantino, a talented cast that has been in some of my favorite films, and a genre that is really hard to mess up - you would think that "Hell Ride" would be a slam dunk. A hit with audiences. Another chapter to add to cult films. Yet it fails miserably, falling flat on its face when it should be excelling. "Hell Ride" is a disastrous misstep that Tarantino should be absolutely ashamed of. I'm definitely ashamed I paid hard earned money to be witness to an absolute calamity.


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