Saturday, August 23, 2008

Reel Thoughts: Hell No

Do they do it on purpose? I mean, how easy are they making my job when they call a grueling, horrible biker road movie Hell Ride? “Yes, it was, but that was just watching it.” There, my review is over.

Not really. If I ended it there, you’d miss hearing about Joey Bishop’s son, Larry Bishop (who also wrote and directed), as Pistolero, a Sonny Bono look-alike who is inexplicably irresistible to the ladies. A word to the wise: don’t eat before seeing Hell Ride, or you’ll probably see your food flying back out of your mouth when you witness the “sexy talk” between Bishop and Leonor Varela, where every lame “fire fighter” variation is batted back and forth between the charisma-free pair. It’s along the lines of bad gay porno — “I wish you’d pull out your fire hose” sort of stuff — that goes on forever.

Much like the film, which is a dull biker take on the hoary old Western tale of one gang avenging the murder of their leader by a rival gang. Quentin Tarantino’s name above the title and the Grindhouse-ian trailer may fool you into thinking that Hell Ride is a campy take-off on classic exploitation movies, chock full of booze, boobs and blood. While it has all three, it’s not so much a parody as it is a really bad example of the genre, one that takes itself way too seriously.

You see, you’re actually supposed to care that on July 4, 1976 -- no symbolism there! -- the nasty Six-Six-Six bikers led by Vinnie Jones (who would have been eleven at the time) threw gasoline on a woman and set her on fire. That her name was Cherokee Kisum (Get it, “Kiss him?”) and that she held the key to a buried treasure that may or may not belong to hunky Eric Balfour is not interesting in the least. Sadly, what could have been a wild updating of Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! is instead some aging F-List actor’s combination wet dream and poor excuse for a Tarantino film.

Dennis Hopper, the king of easy riders, is reduced to an odd character with little or nothing to do, while Michael Madsen does what he can as The Gent. You have to feel for him -- he wears a frilly tux shirt that must have smelled pretty rank after a while, and has to ride a chopper that looks like a girl’s Huffy bike, minus the handle streamers. Any humor to be found in Hell Ride is purely unintentional, and sure to be stomped out by its sadistic violence and sad male wish fulfillment. At least they have the good sense to show Balfour’s chiseled torso every chance they can. But not even that can entice me to go on that woebegone Hell Ride again.

UPDATE: Hell Ride is now available onfrom

Review by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.

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