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'Hell Ride' revs its engine for 83 minutes in a cul-de-sac
" Hell Ride" should've been a scuzzy disreputable low-budget hoot, flying down the highway at 110 m.p.h. Instead it revs its engine for 83 minutes in a cul-de-sac. Written and directed by Larry Bishop (Joey's kid, for the record), the film apes the biker movies Bishop worked in, once upon a time, for American International Pictures. At one point in "Hell Ride" Michael Madsen, who plays a killer called The Gent, rasps a comment about being stuck in a "whopper of a chopper opera." First of all, do you really want to cross that line? The one where the characters start commenting on the thing they're in? Secondly: A whopper this isn't. It's not even a Whopper Junior. It's the paper the Whopper Junior came in.
The cast of "Hell Ride" is dominated by gents in their 50s, 60s and (in the case of Dennis Hopper) 70s. The women in it—sorry, "broads"; sorry, "chicks"—skew just a tad younger, by two or three or four decades. "Bikes, beer and booty," according to Madsen, are the reasons to live in this world, or at least this film.
AIP got the biker craze going in 1966 with "The Wild Angels," and among its profitable drive-in progeny a couple of years later was "The Savage Seven," in which Bishop co-starred. Quentin Tarantino, drive-in and grindhouse aficionado, always liked "The Savage Seven," and he decided to put some money where his affections lay. This is why Tarantino's name is the biggest on the poster for "Hell Ride": The man behind the recent faux double-bill "Grindhouse" executive-produced it. Bishop's script pits the members of the Victors gang against the scum of the 666ers in a series of revenge killings and slow-motion struts backed by balls of flame. Bishop plays one of the strutters, Pistolero, sporting what appears to be a rented, paste-on goatee. Hopper and David Carradine show up as well, and everyone seems to be doing a Michael Madsen impersonation.
I did enjoy the sensitive peyote-fueled dream sequence, and in a bit role as a bartender, Laura Cayouette intones the line "You must be ... The Gent" in a voice so sultry she's halfway to the post-coital cig as she's saying it. Her smile, however, suggests an actual actress having actual fun, in a movie where everyone around her is either hiding behind sunglasses or mud-wrestling. For a grindhouse throwback that works, try Tarantino's "Death Proof" (the shorter version). That one delivered; "Hell Ride" gets a flat 10 minutes in and goes floop-floop-floop the rest of the way.
MPAA rating: R (forstrong violence, sexual content including graphic nudity and dialogue, language and drug use).
Running time: 1:23.
Opening: Aug. 8.
Starring: Michael Madsen (The Gent); Eric Balfour (Comanche); Larry Bishop (Pistolero); Dennis Hopper (Eddie Zero); Vinnie Jones (Billy Wings); Leonor Varela (Nada); David Carradine (The Deuce)
Written and directed by: Bishop; photographed by Scott Kevan; edited by Blake West and William Yeh; music by Daniele Luppi; produced by Michael Steinberg, Bishop and Shana Stein. A Dimension Films release.