Hell Ride
The Weinstein Company // R // $29.95 // October 28, 2008
Review by Adam Tyner | posted November 9, 2008
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Graphical Version
"I'm talkin'
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about four Bs: bikes, beer, booty, and big bucks, man. That's actually fuckin' five Bs right there."

The short version...? All the way back in '76, a rival biker gang slaughtered Cherokee Chisum (Julia Jones). Pistolero (Larry Bishop) had sworn to Cherokee that he'd look after her son and keep an eye on the kid's 'inheritance' that's buried somewhere off this long stretch of desert highway. It's been more than thirty years since she was brutally murdered, but when one of the high sheriffs in the Victors is butchered and Pistolero picks up on the whereabouts of Cherokee's son, he grabs The Gent (Michael Madsen) and Comanche (Eric Balfour) for some long overdue vengeance against the 666ers.

Writer/director/star Larry Bishop really only had two goals with Hell Ride. One...? To prove that just because a guy's old enough to order the senior coffee at McDonald's, he can still have a couple dozen foxy twentysomethings slathering their tongues all over him. Bishop's pretty desperate to paint himself as a badass biker, but he's really not imposing enough to sell it. Nope, he's as artificial and unconvincing as...wow! Fucking everything else in Hell Ride. Bishop makes it pretty clear in the extras that he desperately wanted to impress Quentin Tarantino, and the entire flick reads like a halfassed love letter to him. The final non-reveal in the movie is swiped straight outta Pulp Fiction, Bishop takes a kind of incoherent stab at Tarantino's non-linear storytelling by throwing in a choppy, jarring barrage of flashbacks, and he indulges himself by belting out a couple hundred thousand puns and stilted, awkward, sarcastic-finger-quotes "clever" dialogue. At one point, Michael Madsen's sitting up in a tree, blowing into a beer bottle and sayin' "Look, I'm an owl." Comanche is asked how old his Indian 'Trigger' is in horse-bike years. The worst, though...? I may have loved Leonor Varela as the first of the Martas
Quentin Tarantino's thing for feet is nothin' compared to Larry Bishop's ass fetish.
on Arrested Development, but she's kind of a trainwreck here in Hell Ride, saddled with some of the most agonizing dialogue in the movie. She rambles on for something like three minutes straight about where in her skeevy bar she and Pistolero are gonna fuck, and later, she uses 'fire' as a metaphor for...well:
"I want you to drop those pants, sit back, relax, and watch my tongue fight fire with fire."
"Can we have a little...fireside chat after you're done tonguing me?"
"Howzabout we have the little fireside chat while I'm tonguing you? We'll kill two birds with one tongue."
"Are you 86'ing me? You're not a pussy eater. You never ate my pussy...not once. Why, all of a sudden...?"
This is after, like, five minutes of fireplugs, firehoses, fire eating, fire marshalls, fire chiefs, fire drills, fire departments, fire resistant whatever, fire retardants... Oh well. Valera does a striptease to a Neko Case song (?!), so that kinda/sorta/not-really-at-all makes up for it.

So...yeah. Hell Ride goes something like this: sit around and talk for twenty minutes, shoot someone, throw in an eight second flashback, tear off on a motorcycle to some other bar, fuck some random broad, churn out another flashback, fuck another couple of chicks, talk some more, and...y'know,
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lather, rinse, repeat. A spaghetti western with motorcycles, Hell Ride is set in a world where everyone's either riding a bike or riding a biker. At the same time, the movie opens with photography that looks like something out of a Calvin Klein commercial with Pistolero muttering something like, "Fucking arrow. Fucking arrow in the middle of the desert. It's a nihilist's dream come true." It's the most pretentious, overwritten biker flick this side of The Loveless while still being sleazy enough to feel like more of an authentic grindhouse flick than anything in...y'know, Grindhouse. I don't know what the hell Larry Bishop's going for here. There are long, long stretches where nothing happens, the story is so incoherent that I kind of lost track of who the characters were and what they were actually trying to do (it doesn't help that Vinnie Jones, David Carradine, and Dennis Hopper have key roles but are only in the movie for a couple minutes a pop), but hey...! There are lotsa tits, and that's gotta count for something, right? Right?!? (Actually, the several dozen nekkid women scattered around in here really are all Hell Ride has goin' for it.)

Hell Ride isn't a sleazy throwback to AIP's biker flick days: no, Larry Bishop is a third-rate Tarantino knockoff trying desperately to pretend he's not in the AARP set by throwing out a bunch of lukewarm action and paying a small army of gorgeous, busty women to drape themselves all over him. It's obnoxious, self-indulgent, agonizingly dull, and one of the unredeemably shittiest movies I've ever had to suffer through. Skip It.

Video: Oh well -- at
If you wanna hear Dennis Hopper say "man" again -- a lot! -- this is the movie for you.
least Hell Ride looks pretty slick in high-def if you can get past the obnoxiously hyperstylized visuals. The scope image is exceptionally crisp and is packing a hell of a lot of detail; it looks so perfect that I kind of just assumed Hell Ride had been shot natively on high-def video and tweaked in post to give it more of a filmlike look, but...nope. It really was shot on 35mm. The gritty texture to the movie is rendered tightly and doesn't cause the AVC encode to ever sputter or stutter. Hell Ride's visual style is pretty erratic, blowing out the contrast, fiddling with color saturation from shot to shot, and even chucking out frames to give some stretches kind of a jittery look. Every last bit of that is intentional, though, and the only real flaw I could spot was light ringing around some edges.

Audio: Hell Ride sports a 24-bit Dolby TrueHD soundtrack, but because pretty much the entire movie is people standing around and talking, the sound design isn't given all that much of a chance to be aggressive. There's the throaty roar of the motorcycle engines, yeah, the rush of the desert wind, bikes screaming across the screen from one channel to the next, the echo of gunfire on the open road...but the mix stays rooted up front, and there's really not all that much of a low-frequency assault. Some of the sounds scattered around in here are pretty great, though, especially the "thwip!" of Billy Wings' arrow-gun. Anyway, the soundtrack is okay but really kinda tame.

A Dolby Digital 5.1 track has also been tacked on along with subtitles in English (SDH) and Spanish.

Extras: Hell Ride packs on a stack of featurettes and an audio commentary, and aside from a 1080p trailer, all of them are served up in standard-def.
  • Audio commentary: "I don't want to marginalize the casual pussy." Yeah, that note from writer/director/star Larry Bishop pretty much sums up where this pretentious commentary with D.P. Scott Kevan winds up going. I kind of dug some of the comments about shooting a biker flick on a grindhouse budget -- not being able to afford signage or exteriors for the sets, casting smaller roles based on what kinds of motorcycles the actors had handy, being stuck with just a few breakable beer bottles -- but...ugh. Bishop rambles on about feverishly writing a 400 page script that he thought might revolution the art of screenwriting, he finds some way of relating pretty much everything on-screen to a French painter or what-the-hell-ever, he tears off on a l-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-ong discussion about coming up with a shot list... This is worse than waterboarding.
  • The Making of Hell Ride (9 min.): Larry Bishop runs through how a tear through The Savage Seven with Quentin Tarantino snowballed into writing Hell Ride, belting out a photographic style that varies depending on how Pistolero reacts to the women around him, what it's like to juggle writing, directing, and starring in a low-budget biker flick, and somehow managing to slink by with an R rating. It's more of an interview than a standard issue making-of piece.
  • The Babes of Hell Ride (5 min.): Bishop
    Fire up the fire marshall's firehose at the fire department 'cause the fire chief is gonna need a fire plug for this fire drill!
    gabs about lining up the half-battalion of impossibly gorgeous, uninhibited women scattered throughout the movie and explaining what some of them are meant to represent...y'know, metaphorically or whatever.
  • The Guys of Hell Ride (14 min.): Alternating between comments from the lead actors and writer/director/twenty-other-slashes Larry Bishop, this featurette points out how it's supposed to be unclear who to root for, exactly, why the Gent is puttering around the desert in a tuxedo, and comparing the cast to Errol Flynn, John Wayne, and Dean Martin. A bunch of casting notes are tossed around in here too.
  • The Choppers of Hell Ride (9 min.): The last of the featurettes takes a look at how the motorcycles were keyed to each individual character, how Eric Balfour managed to learn to ride the toughest bike in the movie over the course of just two weeks, and Madsen rattling of a long, long list of demands for his chopper.
  • Michael Madsen's video diary (10 min.): Madsen narrates over behind-the-scenes footage of the titty bar, the orgy, a bar fight, and a desert shootout, chatting about how he wound up playing a lead role in Hell Ride and pointing out how great it is to have Dennis Hopper on the payroll.
  • Red band trailer (HD; two and a half min.): This trailer is the only high-def extra on the disc.
Conclusion: Y'know, I'm a sucker for sleazy, trashy movies, but if not for the whole reviewing obligation thing, I wouldn't have made it ten minutes into Hell Ride. This gritty, grimy biker flick feels like it was written and directed by a fifteen year old with an ass fetish trying to ape Quentin Tarantino. Hell Ride is bogged down by reams of shitty dialogue, its pacing stutters so badly that its barely-feature length runtime feels like I'm watching The Decalogue or something, and in between clumsily trying to paint himself as some sort of bad-ass biker, Larry Bishop takes a stab at propping up the pointless, incoherent story by throwing in another set of tits every six minutes. Fucking unwatchable and on my short list for the worst of '08. Skip It.

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