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January 24, 2009

Hell Ride

2008, Dir. by Larry Bishop

One of the factors that can redeem almost any independent film, especially those looking to hit with cult audiences, is when a film is clearly a labor of love for the people behind it. If you don't have the budget, the manpower, or the time, you're going to have to wing it. And when you do, it generally helps to be really interested in making the movie you set out to make, as well as willing to take the steps needed to succeed. Many times, this gets genre filmmakers like Peter Jackson and Sam Raimi noticed, and leads to their commercial successes.

The problem with that, however, is that every once in a while you'll run into a film that's clearly a labor of love for the filmmaker, who clearly has his stamp on every part of the film...but he turns out to not be any good at making movies. Thus is the case with Hell Ride, a biker picture from Writer/Director/Star Larry Bishop that ends up being difficult to watch mostly due to his proclivities.

The Plot
Hell Ride focuses on a band of bikers called the Victors, led by Bishop's Pistolero, who has memories of his youth and the girl he lost that drive him to...well, drive. He's accompanied on hsi travels by other Victors, most notably The Gent (Michael Madsen, continuing his trend of picking up roles in awful movies) and Comanche (Eric Balfour). The former is a aging ladies man (although, every male character in this incredibly chauvanistic film fits that description), while the latter is the youngest member of the group whose claim that he's "Just a guy named Comanche" doubles for the phrase "I HAVE A SECRET CRUCIAL TO THE PLOT!" being tattooed on his forehead. Pistolero and fellas are on the hunt for information regarding some lost loot and his personal revenge for the death of his childhood lover. And, that's really about all the plot, save a rival gang lead by master thug Vinnie Jones; and one of Pistolero's women named Nada (played by the gorgeous Leonor Varela of Blade II fame) who...well, shows up with knowledge when the film requires it (or, when the film requires someone for Pistolero to talk dirty with).

The Good
Not a lot fits this category. Varela's introduction, backed by music from Neko Case, is a good looking moment until the lips of her and Bishop start flapping and the f-word gets dropped about 30 times in 4 minutes. Neko's music makes the scene vivid and memorable before the dialogue drives you crazy, and the attractive actress quickly becomes sleazy through Bishop's male-fantasy inspired dialogue.

The film features brief appearances from b-movie all-stars Dennis Hopper and David Carradine, who add to the film slightly while picking up a paycheck. Hopper adds some humor and plays a small part in the finale, while Carradine shows up for one exposition scene before meeting a gruesome demise. Their combined experience in hamming it up for a crappy director shows through, even though they're only on screen for a short time.

The Bad
I've made note several times of the awful script and dialogue involved in this film, but it's worth repeating. Bishop uses sexual references whenever possible, perhaps in an attempt to make the characters seem "cool". When he's not having characters spew out the story, he's working in uninspired flashbacks, tracking shots of the bikers driving around curves in the mountains, and more naked women than you can shake a stick at. That last thing is generally acceptable, but Bishop just seems to have a way of making the entire film seem sleazy, missing the tone he was going for completely. It's no secret that the film is supposed to mimic Grindhouse films of the '60s and '70s (the trailers for both Grindhouse features start the DVD), but the film never comes close to feeling like something any audience would hunger for or find intriguing.

Bishop the actor is equally disappointing, giving a performance that resembles Tom Savini impersonating Madsen and Nick Nolte poorly (and I say that with all due respect to the famed goremaster, but let's face it- Tom isn't walking away with the golden man with the tiny buttocks any time soon). Madsen goes through the motions much as he did in Bloodrayne or Croc; and Jones is his usual over the top self as the head baddie who's probably given Bishop's worst sex-related dialogue. Outside of Carradine and Hopper (and I suppose Varela from a visual standpoint), the rest of the cast is forgettable.

Random Moments
  • Pistolero seems pretty attached to Varela's character, but has sex with at least 4 other women throughout the film. Bishop really hooked himself up here.
  • Jones' recount of what his tattoos mean to a young prostitute could be the most disgusting scene of recent memory.
  • Varela's character, when meeting Pistolero in their first full scene, offers to f-word Pistolero NINE times before he can get a word in. Yeah, this movie's definitely not written to be degrading to women. NOT!
The Verdict
I'm not sure why, but I don't feel like giving Hell Ride the lowest possible rating despite how much it annoys me. Bishop did succeed at making the film he wanted to make, and that has to be worth something. However, I don't think Bishop's film will be interesting to many people that aren't Bishop himself, and it's borderline offensive to the intelligence of the filmgoer in most scenes. Definitely a movie I wouldn't recommend to anyone.

The Mike's Rating: Skip It!


Anonymous said...

Honestly this film is decent at best. There are many entertaining moments, but its clear that Bishop succeeded in creating a grindhouse movie with all of the parts but not what really makes those movies tick. Michael Madsen though flat out ruled, but then he always does.

Direct to Video Connoisseur said...

I just saw this, and though I wasn't a big fan either, I didn't have as many of the issues with it you had. I liked the sexuality, and in the making of featurette, Bishop said he didn't instruct the women to go where they went with it, he let them decide how far to go. The plot was the bad part for me, and it hindered the action immensely. That's where it lost that Grindhouse element for me, because those movies are seldom talky.

Also, in the making of featurette, Bishop said he didn't care what anyone thought of this as long as Tarentino liked it, so it makes sense if you don't care what the audience thinks the audience probably won't enjoy it.