Hell Ride (2008)

Movies like Hell Ride exist because some people, like writer, director, and star Larry Bishop, can’t give up the past. Here, he plays the president of a motorcycle gang, Pistolero, although which one was lost on me. I have up caring pretty early on, to be honest. He’s around the age of 60, and so are most of his colleagues. Bishop has been in biker movies before, all the way back to the late ’60s, and seems to want to recapture the fun he had during that time.

The basic gist of the plot goes something like this: There is another gang that is not led by Pistolero, and therefore it’s bad. Oh, there’s been conflict between them for over 30 years — the constant, annoying, pointless, and confusing flashbacks ensure this — but now is the time to finally end things. I’m sure there are reasons behind that decision, but ignoring the inane dialogue in a movie like this is generally for the best. Essentially, Larry Bishop gets to live out a fantasy for not even 90 minutes, while also pretending to give us an insightful parody and an homage to the biker films of the ’70s.

I say “pretending” because that seems to be more a ruse than anything else. Nobody here seems to want to do anything that’s genuinely insightful; they’re making a junky movie and that’s that. The claim can be made that the people behind it are more clever than they’re portrayed by their final product, but I’m not seeing it. You don’t make a film this bad and then claim that it was intentionally this way. The Room creator Tommy Wiseau claims that his film was supposed to be that funny. Do you believe him?

It might not be completely fair to compare Hell Ride to The Room, especially because the former at least has enough nudity and violence to keep a male audience member’s attention, but both films are beyond awful and on a second viewing, I’d pick The Room simply because it’s funnier. Hell Ride tries to be funnier, and tries to be more interesting, but it fails at almost every conceivable point.

I think one of the problems is that it’s clear that Bishop was trying to copy Quentin Tarantino — the person who served as an executive producer and “presenter” of the film. A non-linear plot, dialogue that doesn’t go anywhere, a kind of creepy focus on a certain female body part (in this case it’s not feet) — all of it screams “Tarantino wannabe.” The problem is that Tarantino knows how to make it work, while Larry Bishop doesn’t have that sort of vision or talent. His dialogue is interesting, not just overlong for the sake of taking up time.

Hell Ride doesn’t even have enough content to fill the 80 minutes for which it plays. If removed of its unnecessary flashbacks and if the dialogue was kept to a minimum — and when the writing is this poor, that would have been a blessing — we might have a 40 minutes film here. Most of that would consist of these 50-60-year-old dudes being desired by 20-year-old, topless ladies, because that’s exactly what this director wanted him and his friends to experience while on this set.

Is there anything enjoyable here? Sure. Dennis Hopper and David Carradine show up in cameo roles, two biker legends in their own rights, and that’s almost always a pleasant sight to see. They, unlike the rest of the actors, actually seem to be having fun, probably because they get a paycheck and don’t have to be completely embarrassed by their appearance here. Vinnie Jones plays the main villain, although despite this, he only gets a few minutes on-screen. It would’ve been fun to see more of him, I think, as he’s often a fun presence.

Everyone else is awful. One might think that Bishop would be able to get a good performance out of himself, but he’s probably the worst actor in the film. It’s not just that he doesn’t seem like he could actually be the president of the gang — he doesn’t look or talk the part — but he is so unemotional that you wonder if he was half-asleep during most of the takes. Speaking of being asleep or drunk during production, Michael Madsen shows up as another one of the bikers, and while he’s at least got a couple of fun moments, it doesn’t add up to much.

I can get behind a terrible Z-grade movie if it’s fun. That’s about all that this type of film has to do in order for me to at least give it a tentative recommendation. There’s nothing enjoyable, nothing worthwhile, and nothing that’s even remotely interesting about this film. I just wanted to smile or laugh for most of it, and all I felt was sad; I was disappointed that anybody would finance this and that this many actors would agree to be a part of it.

There are movies that are so bad, they’re good, and others that are so bad that they’re a complete waste of time and there’s no reason to even consider giving them the time of day. Hell Ride is so awful that not even the sight of naked ladies — of which there plenty, especially in its first half — could bring cheer to it. Everyone, save for cameos from Dennis Hopper and David Carradine, is so drab and down, despite all these actors in or past middle age getting to live out a director’s misogynistic fantasy. What an awful movie.

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