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Pistolero, the leader of the biker gang The Victors, sets out to exact revenge on a rival gang known as the 666ers. But there's dissention amongst the ranks when his members begin to question his leadership.
For more about Hell Ride and the Hell Ride Blu-ray release, see Hell Ride Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on October 7, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.0 out of 5.
Starring: Larry Bishop, Michael Madsen, Eric Balfour, Dennis Hopper, Vinnie Jones, David Carradine
Director: Larry Bishop
» See full cast & crew
Hell Ride Blu-ray Review
Larry Bishop is back, bigger and badder than ever! What are you laughing at?
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, October 7, 2009
Quentin Tarantino has made something of a career for himself by elevating B-movies (if you're feeling charitable in your description) to the level of High Art. (If you're feeling less than charitable, you might call the source material he revisits and remakes in his own image "trash"). When he's mostly successful, as in Pulp Fiction or Reservoir Dogs, the results are stupendously entertaining and viscerally exciting. When he has middling success, as in the Kill Bill films, there are usually at least some redeeming elements in the overall malaise. When he fails, he fails spectacularly, and this is nowhere more evident than in the film he Executive Produced and virtually mentored into being, Hell Ride, a patently ridiculous biker "epic" meant to recast those, well, trashy American International movies from the late 1960s and early 1970s into a postmodernist masterpiece. While Hell Ride has some fitfully amusing moments, along with the expected sleaze and gore, it plays out like the visual analog of that putrid mess rotting on the back of your lowest refrigerator shelf—you know it stinks and that it's awful to look at, but you're not quite sure what exactly it is. There's also a good chance your adolescent son will want to consume it, whatever it is.
Hell Ride is the brainchild (and that is an oxymoron in and of itself, believe me) of Larry Bishop, son of comedian Joey, and erstwhile "iconic" figure of such cult films as The Savage Seven. Only someone like Tarantino could have been excited by the prospect of having Bishop craft his own hommage to a genre he inhabited himself a generation ago, but that's evidently exactly what happened. Unfortunately, Bishop was all too obviously enamored of Tarantino's Pulp Fiction time bending propensities, as well as his hyperbolic and often ultra-ironic dialogue. Unfortunately, Bishop shares none of Tarantino's wit, that dry and often acerbic humor that helps to subtly undercut the faux intellectualism that is part and parcel of most of Quentin's films, whether they're ostensibly "grindhouse" or not. So what we're left with is a jumble of a story that slowly begins to make sense by about halfway to three quarters of the way through the film, propped up by some of the most patently silly, over the top, dialogue you've ever heard in any film ever. You know you're in trouble when the most (supposedly) innovative thing in the film is the freeze frame with "wanted poster" logo titles announcing the names of each major character as they're introduced.
The basic plot of Hell Ride is, ultimately, simplicity itself. A long ago killing of a woman by a rival biker gang is ultimately avenged by the woman's son and some of his compadres. How that actually plays out is a study in deconstructionism in Bishop's fumbling hands. "Visions" of the dead woman are intercut with several different time periods which collide against each other in what I imagine are supposed to be gasp worthy denouements a la Lost, but unfortunately play out here more like really, really lost. Bishop stars as Pistolero (an hommage in and of itself, to Tarantino cohort Richard Rodriguez), an aging biker whose protégé Comanche (Eric Balfour) is the son of the long ago murdered woman. Also along for the ride is Gent (Michael Madsen), so named because his chosen attire is not biker leather, but ruffled tuxedo shirts. Yes, it's that kind of movie.
In a desperate bid for at least some kind of cool factor, the film also offers cameos by Dennis Hopper, David Carradine and Vinnie Jones, all of whom seem happy to at least be picking up a paycheck, if they're all simultaneously a bit thrown off by the loopy dialogue. Hopper and Carradine do at least offer a sly twinkle in the eye (especially Hopper), which helps at least partially elevate their performances above mere hackdom, if not quite enough to make them camp in the classic sense.
Bishop does display some passing competence, if not outright genius, in some of his directorial touches. The peyote-fueled "hallucination" sequence is kind of fun, if never exaggerated enough to reach Psych Out levels. On the other hand (literally in this case), some of the gratuitous silicone implant breast scenes are just ridiculous, and are about as sexy as a telephone book. The sleaze factor in these scenes is only heightened by the fact that all of these nubile, naked twenty-something women are being pawed by men who are largely in their fifties or beyond.
For a biker film, there's precious little "vroom" factor here, with only a couple of passing shots of the bikers actually in action on their hogs. The rest of Hell Ride is a talky, pretentious mess, feebly attempting to be hip while never realizing how completely lame it is. The only ironic thing about this film is its title—it more than aptly describes what any potential viewer is in for should they decide, unwisely, to spend 80 minutes of their lives watching this dreck.
Hell Ride Blu-ray, Video Quality
Larry Bishop must have had a ball burning through the Weinsteins' money making Hell Ride (and, yes, I mean those Weinsteins). Therefore we are greeted by just about every post-production trick in the book, from grainy black and white segments, to desaturated sepia tones, to the paisley swirls of a hallucination. Your reaction to this Blu-ray will probably depend entirely on whether you need everything in a film to pop with high definition splendor. There are certainly a lot of very crisp and colorful moments in Hell Ride's AVC encode, supporting a 1080p 2:40:1 transfer. If you don't mind the bells and whistles of Bishop's directorial choices with regard to the image, this Blu-ray presents a rather arresting array of different "looks," each of them good in their own way. The black and white image has been over-processed to the point where grain is almost noise-like, and contrast is (purposefully) not as marked as it would be in a "normal" black and white image. The other treated segments of the film offer interesting hues with varying sharpness and depth, but my hunch is they reproduce the original look of the film to a tee (yes, I know you probably find it hard to believe, but I did not take in Hell Ride in the theaters).
Hell Ride Blu-ray, Audio Quality
You'd expect Hell Ride to be full of roaring engines and swooping directionality in its many road sequences, wouldn't you? Well, you're wrong--twice. There aren't very many road sequences in this picture, and what few there are have an actually startling lack of surround use in both the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix and its somewhat less bombastic DD 5.1 sibling. The TrueHD mix, which streams at an average of around 3.5 Mbps, is perfectly clear, with good low end, especially in the thumping rock and rockabilly soundtrack that accompanies the bulk of the film, but it's surprisingly anemic for a film with this kind of aural heritage. I think even The Wild One may have provided more sonic thump for the dollar than Hell Ride does. For those of you wondering what all the fuss is about in lossless soundtracks, even though Hell Ride's lossless TrueHD is really nothing to write home about, compare it with its DD 5.1 lossy counterpart, and you'll immediately hear the difference--marked lack of low end in the Dolby Digital version, with an overall compressed sound.
Hell Ride Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Several OK to pretty good supplements dot the dusty landscape here, the best of which, strangely, is Bishop's commentary, which offers more entertainment value than the film itself most of the time. Each of the featurettes is perfectly described by their titles, which I'll list for you. They're all in SD, though anamorphically enhanced. They include: "The Making of 'Hell Ride'" (8:50), "The Babes of 'Hell Ride'" (5:19), "The Guys of 'Hell Ride'" (14:18), and "The Choppers of 'Hell Ride'" (9:34). There are also several minutes of on the set home movies by Michael Madsen, and a trailer.
Hell Ride Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
There are a lot of portentous satanic references running through Hell Ride, not the least of which is its title. If Bishop and Tarantino made a deal with the devil to make this film, they ought to ask for their souls back.
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Hell Ride Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Hell Ride Coming to Blu-ray - September 11, 2008
The Weinstein Company has announced that they will release 'Hell Ride' to Blu-ray on October 28th, day-and-date with the DVD release, under the Dimension Extreme label. The film, which was produced by Quentin Tarantino, will come on a BD-50 and feature 1080p video ...
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