The Review: From the look of things, you’re about to read one of the few overtly positive reviews for Hell Ride out there. This is something that has come as a shock to me. After watching Hell Ride for the first time, I sprang up from my seat and hit the IMDB to learn as much about the film as I possibly could – only to stumble upon a wealth of anger from nearly ever user review I read. Where does this anger come from? Well, Hell Ride is a love it or hate it kind of film I suppose. Your enjoyment of the film is all relative to how forgiving a viewer you are as well as the circumstances involving your watching the film. I learned this the hard way when trying to watch the movie with my brother, who is far from a film geek himself. Hell Ride is a dialogue heavy film, and works in much the same style as Quentin Tarantino’s recent work – which is to say it is pretty over the top in that old “exploitation” film manner, but instead of scenes being punctuated with a line or two of “cool” dialogue like in the old days; every word out of every character’s mouth is either equally over the top and hip or an elongated monologue of hip dialogue. Around the time Pistolero’s spy girlfriend gives her monolauge to him about how he needs to, well, “eff” her (hey man, I try to keep it clean as a manner of professionalism) because he’ll never be able to get it up again once he hears the news – my brother had heard enough. He begged me to find something else to watch. His reason? The dialogue sounds like a theatrical play rather than something you would expect to hear real people say. This is a valid criticism, and unfortunately my brother wasn’t that eloquent with his opinion – but that was his point. He’s right in the fact that Hell Ride sounds nothing like anything you would hear in real life but I also think this is where the film is going to find its audience. Hell Ride is a movie’s movie and although it infuses some things from older exploitation classics, it is an entirely new and different kind of beast. A beast that owes a great debt to the vision of Tarantino and his Kill Bill films. My brother, who is far from a film expert of any sort even asked within the opening minutes of the film if it was actually directed by Tarantino – no doubt due to the black and white crisp photography of the opening as well as the witty banter between characters. It isn’t exactly a good thing when your film is so closely similar to another director’s particular style – but much like all of the shortcomings within Hell Ride your ability to forgive this will determine just how much you are able to enjoy the film.
So, why do I forgive these previously mentioned shortcomings? Well, sometimes a film just has to entertain. Sometimes it isn’t all about intense character motivation, learning a moral lesson or being trapped in a three dimensional drama. Sometimes cinema needs a hero, characters who keep to themselves, show us only enough to have us believe in them and we are rewarded with supermen and women who may be flawed but have little to no weakness. Pistolero, Commanche and The Gent are just those kind of heroes. Michael Madsen (The Gent), who I think most would agree is already one of the coolest cats in Hollywood shows the audience that he still has that attitude and rue smile that made him the wildest villain in Reservoir Dogs. Eric Balfour (Comanche) who is unfortunately miscast as far as age goes. The film is established as taking place in 2008 when it is shown that St. Louis died in this year, and yet Comanche is shown as a child in 1976 as being roughly the age of eleven or twelve. Even if he was only eight in these flashbacks, that still makes him fourty years old – which Balfour most certainly is not. However, all this does is make the audience count the years away in their head as I just did in this review and does not count against Balfour’s performance as he is great in the film. Balfour comes into the film having a career mostly made in Television, with his most noteworthy performance coming in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake. Balfour, as the new kid on the block with this particular style of film could have been in a lot of trouble, but he seems to take to the role with enthusiasm and is soon chewing scenery right along with all of the other huge roles in the film. Last of the three to mention, but certainly not least is Pistolero (director Larry Bishop). Bishop seems to be getting a lot of flak for casting himself in the lead role here, but I personally am so glad that he did. I seriously don’t see how anyone could look at his character here and not think “wow, that dude is one of the baddest looking guys on the planet”. With his jet black hair, grizzled facial scruff and pitch black sunglasses that block out all emotions aside from his grimace or his smile – Bishop is one of the best things about the film. He delivers his lines with true belief in the words regardless of how over the top they may be. There are so many throwing around the accusation that Bishop wrote the film as a stroking of the ego, but this no doubt comes from the shock so many viewers have with the way the film deals with its sexuality. I warn casual viewers that there’s a decent bit of nudity here, as well as a quick foursome scene with Larry and a few amazingly beautiful girls. However, the scene is not out of place with the rest of the film and if you’re sitting on the sidelines saying “Biker chicks really ain’t that hot man!” then please hit yourself with a brick. Is there any part of Hell Ride that feels like actual events? Of course not. However, The Gent, Pistolero and Comanche all live in a world where women are numerous and absolutely gorgeous. This is established with scenes such as this and integral for the advancement of the plot, showing how important women are to this lifestyle and how characters like The Gent were sucked into it and how those characters are to react to Booty not being as plentiful when constant war is erupting around them. Not to mention, it’s just pretty friggin’ cool to lay down with that many chicks at once I must say.
Hell Ride isn’t going to be for everyone, it really isn’t and that is painfully obvious at this point. However, I have faith that the film is here to stay and is finding its main audience even now. Although Bishop might have been trying pretty hard with this effort and it could have been toned down just a bit, I do enjoy his outlandish dialogue and I loved this crazy movie. I wouldn’t recommend watching it with anyone other than true film geeks, and do take my words of warning with you. If you’re up for it, this one should be a blast – if you’re not you’ll simply think it goes too far. Expect lots of nudity, a good bit of blood, some insane dialogue and a good time. I’ve had a really great time watching Hell Ride and just hope to find more fans out there of the film.