Top positive review
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A Very Silly Film
on 10 June 2012
I loved Hell Ride. It certainly seems to be a film that divides opinion, and I can understand why. It has a story that doesn't make any sense the first time you see it, and when you watch it again (and again, and again) to try to join the pieces up, you come to the conclusion that a lot of it doesn't actually join up at all. Given that Tarantino was an executive producer, and that Robert Rodriguez was also clearly an influence (he also does some of the music), that shouldn't come as a surprise. Add that to the deliberately crappy, nonsensical dialogue and jokey posturing of Larry Bishop as the main character and Vinny Jones as one of the two bad guys, and you have a recipe for deep hate on the part of some people.
But it's the kind of recipe that is just as likely to appeal to another kind of audience, and I suppose I fall into that camp, because I've already watched it four times in the last couple of weeks, and will probably watch it again before too long.
I'll give it my best shot to try to explain the storyline. On 4 July 1976 a girl called Kisum who is involved with some members of a bike gang called The Victors has her throat slashed and is set on fire by members of a rival gang, The Six Six Sixers. It turns out that she had been involved in drugs dealing with the Sixers, but had been skimming off the profits, which is why she was killed. Her son is the only person to witness what happened, but he promptly disappears. However, some time before she dies, she tells Johnny "Pistolero" Pistolle, the leader of the Victors, that she has an amount of "treasure" stashed, and that if anything happens to her, then he should make sure that it is passed to her son.
We now skip to 2008. As nobody was aware that the Sixers were the murderers, the Victors took no action, and in the meantime the Sixers faded from the scene. However, out of the blue a member of the Victors is killed in exactly the same way as Kisum. As a result, it soon becomes clear who the original murderers were, and that the Sixers are now back to try to take over the Victors' territory and get their hands on the "treasure". Cue a gang war between the Victors and Sixers, with the added complication that many of the Victors are changing to the other side, leading to a bloodbath within the gang itself, to the point that eventually only four Victors are left. It also becomes clear pretty quickly (if you're able to follow the clues in the plot) that one of the four is in fact Kisum's son. Essentially, the rest of the film involves the war to see which side is going to wipe out the other and get to the "treasure".
The film is violent, and not one for the kids. I think one review referred to "explicit sex" too. He must have been watching a better version than mine, but it is true that there's plenty of nudity, hands on silicone boobs and bums, simulated lesbian sex and the like. It's all pretty tame but, again, not something you're going to want to show the kids.
I thought the actors did a fine job. They must have had a lot of fun making the film, because it should be more than obvious after just ten minutes or so that it's not supposed to be taken too seriously. The dialogue and plot are deliberately daft. Perhaps many of the people who didn't enjoy it were hoping for a film with a lot more gravitas, but that's not what Hell Ride is about. Larry Bishop has come in for a lot of criticism for taking the lead role in his own film, being accused of not being charismatic enough, not leader-like, etc. etc. I can only say I thought he was great, with his silly poses, idiotic one-liners and the like. David Carradine and Dennis Hopper are very enjoyable, Hopper playing an unusual character for him, which might come as a surprise to read, given that he is a biker, just as he was in his most famous film. But if you see the film you'll understand what I mean. Carradine is very charismatic in Hell Ride, but has the briefest of parts to play. Vinnie Jones is like a cartoon bad guy, with a bizarre Anglo-American accent, but he's very menacing and hugely entertaining. He was made for this kind of role. Eric Balfour has also been criticized by some reviewers for his performance as the biker Comanche, but I really thought he was good - likeable, dangerous, and very watchable. Michael Madsen as another gang member, The Gent, is just hilarious. He'll probably look back on his "look I'm an owl" moment as the highlight of his career. Or maybe not. And Leonor Varela is remarkably sexy. She steals every scene she is in.
As for the rest, I loved some of the bikes, especially Vinnie Jones' and Comanche's, plus one or two others that are only seen fleetingly (a few Triumphs, a BSA and a Norton spring to mind). The music is superb, especially CC Rider by Mitch Ryder, and the photography and setting are very watchable. The style is a mix of '60s biker films, Tarantino/Rodriguez, and perhaps I'd go along with one or two other reviewers who compare it to a spaghetti western too, although the similarily didn't occur to me until I read the reviews. If you like a daft film with motorbikes, this could be your thing. It's not a family film like Wild Hogs but, just like that film, it's not meant to be taken seriously and in fact I think Hell Ride works better. I'd love to see a Hell Ride 2.
Just to finish, there's an element of the plot that no other reviewers have mentioned, as far as I can see. The very last line that Pistolero says in the film tells you why he was so ready to help Comanche. It's not subtle, but it seems to have been missed by most people who have seen the film.