Hell Ride Review

Is the biker movie genre making a revival? As a whole, probably not, but there are those who love to dig out outdated genres and give it a new breath of life. Hell Ride obviously wants to be a badass biker movie that rebels at every turn, mixing a take-no-nonsense attitude with sex, drugs, rock n’ roll, and the brotherhood of the two-wheeled riders. It has all of those, but none executed with any dignity. The result is disastrous rather than innovative or cool. If I was a biker, I’d be embarrassed as hell by this movie.

Larry Bishop wrote, directed and starred in Hell Ride as uber-badass biker Pistolero, who cuts through the highway with his chopper looking for revenge when a member of his gang, Victors, is murdered by longtime rival The Six-Six-Sixers, headed by mastermind Deuce (David Carradine) and psychopath Billy Wings (Vinnie Jones). When most of the Victors turn on Pistolero out of greed, the only ones standing by his side are smooth sharpshooter The Gent (Michael Madsen), mysterious hothead Comanche (Eric Balfour) and senior weapons-man Eddie Zero (Dennis Hopper).

Handled in a more conventional manner, Hell Ride could be that kind of film that oozes cool—an exaggeration of biker gang wars where code-bound bandits square off against evil ones in the name of revenge, honor, blah blah blah—but Bishop’s attempt to make some sort of grindhouse Easy Rider throws his own movie for a loop and makes the ridiculously simple plot convoluted. It’s just a story of vengeance as usual, nothing more to it. Straight forward, right? Right, unless you use a non-linear narrative for no apparent purpose and liberally include the most irrelevant flashbacks inserted at awkward moments as if they’re afterthoughts or shortcuts. The first time we see Comanche, he gets a profile graphic complete with his gang logo and the text “Comanche aka Bix” (which the film gives to every major character), then it cuts to a flashback of when he first meets Pistolero. The whole meat of the flashback is basically, “The name’s Bix.” “No. You join our gang, from now on, your name is Comanche.” Very informative, you see.

While many of its intentional humor falls flat, you may have guessed by now that Hell Ride is bloody hysterical when it comes to its mishaps, such as a “trippy” peyote sequence that looks like the parody of a drug cliche. The thing that makes this movie a riot, though, is its wonderfully absurd dialogue (either that or Vinnie Jones' attempt to hide his accent, since he's playing an American biker). Larry Bishop apparently has a raging boner for puns and wordplays, which he took to a whole new level in a flirting scene that uses the word “fire” in every sentence. It starts with a hottie cooing to Pistolero, “My p-ssy is on fire,” which then leads to a long banter with lines like “I need a fire marshall. Pull out your hose” and “How about I show you some fire-eating?” Yes, sir—at best, Larry Bishop’s dialogue is on the caliber of cheap 80’s porn.

Given that the creative control was on his court, there’s something really sleazy about the way Bishop wrote the Pistolero role for himself. It was certainly not for the acting challenge, seeing how Pistolero keeps one look for the entire film: standing legs apart, leaning back, head-cocked and shades hanging just below his eyes, gun in hand, as if he’s the baddest mofo on the planet—which he supposedly is in the film. Oh, and for some inexplicable reason other than his unquestionable badassery, Pistolero gets laid at the drop of a hat. Every woman he encounters in the movie is horny beyond control and immediately opens their legs for him. He even gets a four-way with three attractive ladies at one point.

When it’s not half-assing action and plot—effectively killing all the thrill by making Pistolero, Gent and Comanche all invincible badasses that can survive every confrontation with the Six-Six-Sixers quickly and without a scratch—Hell Ride tries to offer pseudo biker philosophy that barely makes any sense, let alone viable for implementation. While the story is not completely beyond understanding if you just pay attention, it quickly feels like it’s asking way too much effort from its audience for so little payoff. Even more so when the entire film comes across as a sad masturbatory fantasy.

As per usual with any movie associated with Tarantino, though, the soundtrack rocks.

"Hell Ride" opens August 8, 2008 and is rated R. Action, Thriller. Written and directed by Larry Bishop. Starring Dennis Hopper, Michael Madsen, Vinnie Jones, Larry Bishop, Eric Balfour, David Carradine.

Arya Ponto • Contributor

As former Editor of JPP, Arya likes to entertain peeps with his thoughts on pop culture, when he's not busy watching Battle Royale for the 200th time. He lives in Brooklyn with a comic book collection that's always the most daunting thing to move with, and writes for Artboiled.com.


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