Hell Ride (2008) - This scattered but entertaining story is about the biker gang the Victors, a tough gang of hombres sorting out a threat from a rival gang the 666ers. It is also a story about revenge and the settling of old debts. Scattered because it structurally jumps from time to time and give little snippets of back story that at first are out of any context but towards the end of the film weave into a story of settling old scores and discovering relationships that were only hinted at on the way. Being a biker movie it is a journey that at first seems a bit aimless but ultimately has a destination. Writer director Larry Bishop and his editors Blake West and William Yeh could have found a more coherent cutting together of the film that did not leave multiple open questions dangling untouched until the third act. Still This film is somewhat an ode the the biker movies of old.
The Savage Seven, The Devil's 8, and the Soresport reviewed Angel Unchained, Bishop knows what makes a good biker film and here he works with care to make the script more than just a rehash. Now I have to admit, that with his incredibly tanning bed tan, and sharp surreal dialog that for a short time I thought this might be a satire. Hell I am still not sure but the story fleshed out enough to lead me away from that sort of thinking. It is a style that is too cool for school that is a bit off putting, but if you stick it out you see there really is meat behind the story. It is an ode to the movies of the past with classic shot of guys riding. Rivalry and death and destruction, revenge and redemption. Playing into the reflection to films of the past is the great music this feature has. Music mined from other great biker film such as Hell's Belles, The Savage Seven, and The Wild Angels add to the enjoyment here. For me the musical highlight was when Pistolero is going to take a vision quest to see what he needs to do to complete his mission, he eats some mushrooms and walks into the desert to the strains of Maggot Brain by Funkadelic. One of my favorite albums at all time and a electric guitar solo worthy of the great, more famous players. Played by Eddie Hazel it is one of the great guitar solos of all time and I was totally digging it.
Bishop an actor in the biker films of the 60's and 70's brings a vigor to the film playing the lead Biker in the Victors, Pistolero. Having played in such biker classics as
I think the mixed reviews this film gets are not without reason. As stated before the choppy time jump editing is too slow to create a main theme in the film and Bishop's performance as Pisterlero does not help. Add in Michael Madsen as The Gent and the film feel awfully influenced by executive producer Quentin Tarantino, who I have to say also chooses great music for his films. Then there is the violence vs. dirt aspect that pulls you out of the film. Biker films are dirty films about really ugly people and the culture is not one of pretty boys and girls. This film blurs that line with name actors and cute cameos, but the main thing is the secondary characters who are women. They are all LA beautiful and I mean beautiful! The whorehouse the Victors hang at is filled with stunningly gorgeous actresses who in no universe I know of would be in a biker whore house. The female lead characters Nada (Leonor Varela), Cherokee Kisum (Julia Jones) and Maria (Cassandra Hepburn) would never strike me as biker babes. Even bar owner Dani (Laura Cayouette) just is too attractive to fit the part of a desert tough biker bar owner and when Pistolero reaches down to touch her crotch and she moans you get why she is in the skin tight pants and in this film. Besides looks there is a real women failure in this film with most of the women being sexual objects for the men of the film.
In biker movies reviewed in this set I have seen that more than not the women are a part of the gang, or used to contrast the bikers representing the society that the bikers abuse. In Angel unchained the hippie girls see the bikers as lost puppies and themselves as smarter and more mature. In the Wild Riders it is the biker women who get Stick and Pete kicked out of the gang. Now granted I have not yet seen a biker film that was not somewhat misogynistic. All of them have been exploited and using the women roles as victims or second class citizens. In this film although the women are presented as tough, they really are there for their looks. Although they can throw a punch or shoot a gun in the end they are still sexualized through dialog and action to the point that there is no doubt they are there to be used by the men in the film. They are never equal partners in relationship to the men.
The story centered around Pistolero wanting to get revenge for a biker gang war years before where his woman Cherokee Kisum was brutally killed. In the past the Victors dealt a harsh blow to the 666ers and the later gang stayed out of the Victors turf. Now years later with Billy Wings (Vinnie Jones) as the leader they are spreading out into the Victors' area again creating mayhem and targeting our heroes. The Victors for their part have not done well over the years with a group of less strongly loyal riders they are sort of close to closing shop as a gang. It makes them a prime target for the new and incredibly violent 666ers. Derision within the ranks means that the battle is on two fronts, Pistolero and The Gent, with up and comer Comanche (Eric Belfour) spend a good deal of time in the film testing the bikers in their own gang's loyalty and killing all who fail the tests.
There is a secondary line of storytelling about these three main characters. he script wants you to believe that the line between trust and distrust is thin but where they are the focus of the film the viewer never really feels that way. The Gent and Pistolero several times have guns drawn on each other but we know that fight just is never going to happen. There will be an outside condition that gets them to work together every time. Comanche is a secondary story line also. He rises through the ranks of the gang fast and Bishop in his script does a good job at first of making you think the young man may be a plant. Then he also is explained and it all fits together why these three are the trio who come out of this film unscathed. Comanche's journey is one of discovering who he is in this crazy would and probably is the most solid story line in the film with an outcome that is satisfying to the viewer.
There are cameos in the film by Dennis Hopper as Eddie Zero a Victor from the past with a reputation for being dead and David Carradine (RIP) as The Deuce the head of the 666ers but mostly businessman at this point in his life. Again I am not sure is such famous Tartetino connected guy help or hurt this film. In the end though the film is very watchable if not the best put together feature. If not a satire of biker films, it is what a biker film would be in today's mentality in Hollywood, they would make it pretty enough to appeal to the 16-32 male population, lots of tits and ass from lovely young actresses trying to break into the business, with cameos to drag in some older males from legends. Full of graphic violence and ridiculously active gunfights but ultimately the good guys always prevail and the bad guys get theirs in the end. Sure enough you would have this film. Not really a biker film of old but more of the after birth for a new generation.