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A film review of Larry Bishop's Hell Ride, by Sebastian Haselbeck, written in the style and spirit of the film, pictures with graphic nudity and explicit language are intended. Reader discretion is advised. Not safe for work (NSFW). The review is followed by quotes from the film and a screenshot gallery.
Pistolero, "Pres" of the Victors, a biker gang, is out for revenge. The 666ers, a rival gang, have killed his guy St. Louie. While he's after the murderers of his compadre (stopping for some pussy on the way), there's a mutiny cooking up within his own gang, involving his protege Comanche, the mysterious Eddie Zero and a veteran biker, The Gent. The murder of St. Louie seems to be connected with that of Cherokee Kisum back in 1976. Some Peyote, an autobiography, the crazy Billy Wings, a hidden treasure and the sex-hungry Nada all play a part in this chopper opera.
Hell Ride has one major problem: length. And its other problems, mentioned by other reviewers and by myself in just a bit, mostly result from that. The movie is way too short. It clocks at 76 minutes (without the closing credits). That's closer to most exploitation flicks, that's almost 20 minutes short of the usual 90 minutes, and it's short of exactly the amount of time I think it needed to overcome its resulting flaws, which lie mainly in the story telling department. It takes a good paragraph to describe the plot, and that is too much for a biker movie, and that I mean in a positive sense almost. The story is everything but shallow or b-movie like. It is a complicated intrigue between two biker gangs, stretching back over 30 years and involving a family theme, a drug theme, a treasure theme, a revenge theme and a greed theme. The first half of the film the audience is left to wonder who the characters are, where they came from, and how they relate, and how all the places connect that they visit, and why there is not much explanation done story-wise to fill the empty spaces between all the cool lines by all these badass characters, lines that start sounding out of place, especially the ones by Pistolero and The Gent, after a bit. Not because they are bad, but because they are much of what there is. Larry Bishop should've used a good 20 or 30 minutes more worth of footage giving the story more breadth, making it easier to grasp and to dissect. The character of Nada, as shallow as she is at first sight (all she wants is fuck Pistolero, it seems), is a key part in the story and more than just a source of satisfaction and information for Pistolero. That character should have gotten more attention, and as noted by someone on the IMDB, the audience is left to wonder why Bob The Bum died and what that has to do with the story. It is also not entirely clear to me why that ambush with Eddie Zero had to happen and how that ties in with The Gent's mistrust in Pistolero. Had some of these things been expanded a bit more, the movie would have been a bit longer towards the middle, giving the audience a closer seat to the action and the showdown would also seem more dramatic. So this is a result of the length, otherwise I have no problem with short movies. Another problem is the film's obvious R-rated character. And don't get me wrong, I'm all for naked beauties, parties and drugs on screen, in this case it's just not enough, despite what many reviewers lamented. And here comes the length part into play again, it's not like there is not enough titties and beer flying around, it's just not enough to establish a better feel for the biker life, and I think this would go hand in hand with giving some of those secondary characters more attention. That goes for Bob the Bum (he's the gang's bookie), Dr Cement, who seems to be the real traitor, and The Gent's posse trio. Please Larry Bishop, go back to the editing room and give me a good 30 minutes more of Hell Ride, I know it would turn it into a far better movie.
Now the good stuff. I promised myself to be honest, so you had to read through the above rant. Now if you look past the story flaws, you're ride safe into a world of three Bs. You get bikes, you get (American) beer, and lots of booty. The two best things about Hell Ride are the absolutely amazing soundtrack (click here for a full tracklist) that takes you back to the good old days, and the cinematography, which is Sergio Leone on drugs. The music is a great compilation of old biker movie memories, drug tunes and great rock and roll. The soundtrack is also perfectly used in the movie. Opening and closing song are the same, and some scenes and characters have a distinct theme. Luppi adds some nice Spaghetti Western sounding sounds to it. The visuals are just great. Shots of motorcycles on the freeway, drug phantasies, grainy looks, close ups, it all just looks like a great epic. And if you like the sort of biker movie this film wants to be, and if you lower your expectations just a bit, there's more that awaits you. Hell yeah there are really beautiful naked women around every corner, mudwrestling, snortin' coke and running around without underwear. There's evil assholes with harpoons and Uzis, there's lurid biker bars and desert campfire parties, great California locations. You have a cast of cool dudes, especially the great Dennis Hopper and for the biker fans some really nice chrome. I watched the film twice almost in a row in preparation for this review, because even though I was kind of let down by the film's length, I was really curious to get closer to these original characters, their motivations and all those little triva-like secrets. The script mind you (Bishop said he wrote a novel-length treatment), is not without clever. Some of the dialogue reveals a lot more about the story than you'd think, and quite a lot is hinted at, only to be recognized upon second or third viewing. And yes the film appeared a lot better upon second viewing. I enjoyed Hell Ride for exactly the reasons I was so excited to see it for. It is a throwback to the old days, the good days, the all-or nothing days, the Vanishing Point days. It has a pumpin soundtrack for all those music lovers out there who rather listen to the old funky tunes than all that MTV horse shit out there. It has adult content for all us adults out there who are sick of the hypocrisy of PG 13 movies that talk the talk, but don't walk the walk. I see nothing wrong or condescending about nudity on screen, "filthy" language or explicit content of other sorts, as long as it has its place. And Hell Ride is the place just for that, they should've gone even further, some of the bikers look like they work in a cubicle part-time. Hell Ride offers fun for those movie fans who did not misunderstand this film (as the majority of reviewers out there did). If you let it happen, Hell Ride will open to you a little world beside the highway, with biker bars out of cops' reach, bikers who have funs with them, sexy women who in reality would not hang out with unshaven bikers out in the desert (let's be honest, this is not 1968) and, bottom line, a movie that looks and sounds great.
Hell Ride is, thanks to it's length, only a below average movie with lots of wasted potential resulting from that, but it is also a great little fun gem that, at least to me personally, means a lot, because I love movies of this kind, holding Easy Rider as one of my favorite movies of all time and having listened to Hell Ride's soundtrack weeks before I've seen the movie.
It's one hell of a ride.
The following DVD screenshots were removed from our big screenshot gallery. These are more explicit and for 'adults only. Viewer discretion advised, click to enlarge.