Some say there is biker blood coarsing through my veins. I can’t imagine why — I’ve only got a Harley, tats running up and down my arms and I run several meth labs in the suburbs. I also dig biker flicks. Even more, I like films in which Quentin Tarantino has had a hand in making. And so comes Hell Ride, a film about revenge and warring biker gangs that just so happens to be produced by Mr. Tarantino.
Unfortunately, this is a situation where two good things combined don’t add up to a great thing. Even calling Hell Ride a good movie is a bit of a stretch. It’s plagued with a poorly thought out premise that is further crippled by an uneven style of storytelling. What writer/director Larry Bishop was aiming for was a demin-clad, Harley rumbling, grindhousey Pulp Fiction. He got 70’s style cheese instead.
What’s surprising is the premise is as simple as a premise can get too. At its root it is a flick that simply pits biker gang versus biker gang. It doesn’t get any easier than that, boys and girls. The Victors, of which Pistolero (Bishop) is the president and the Gent (Michael Madsen) and Comanche (Eric Balfour) are members, versus the 666ers of which Billy Wings (Vinnie Jones) and others are members. Why the bad blood? Good question. Between all the flashbacks and mind-numbingly bad “cool” dialogue, all I could deduce was that many moons ago the then president of the 666ers killed the lady love of Pistolero by torching her alive. But before she died Pistolero promised to safe keep a little something she stashed away for her boy. The new 666ers want what he is hiding and he wants to exact revenge while trying to locate the boy. Why it took 30+ years to culminate is anyone’s guess.
As for the reason I could only make an educated guess on the story was because it was all very confusing. Aside from the constant flashbacks, the only way to know who was who was by the name patch stitched onto the jackets. Names, including but not limited to, The Duece, Eddie Zero, St. Louie, Goody Two-Shoes and Speed flash all over as the story unfolds in both the present and the past. One moment they’re young, next they’re old — it was literally too much trouble to piece it all together. Then there were characters like Nada (Leonor Varela), who straddled the fence between gangs. Her scenes served absolutely no purpose, other than to have long drawn out conversations with Pistolero in which sex and fire metaphors were intermixed ad nauseam. Thankfully, she is a smoking-hot sex-kitten so I was able to drown out what she was saying while remaining fixated on her assets.
What superceded the mess (and the “I saw it coming a mile away” ending), was the nice gesture of casting two old-school biker film heavyweights: Dennis Hopper and David Carradine. Both of these guys have seen better days, but they’re keeping busy and it was great seeing them get the nod of respect and thanks for the work they did basically creating the whole genre. I’ve also got to hand it to Bishop for writing in so many gratuitous nude scenes. If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear he was paying homage to the 80’s college beach party flick where scenes were put together just so girls could get naked. I also have to give him credit for writing himself in all of those scenes. If I were starring in my own movie, I’d write in a truckload of them too — you can’t go wrong having girls in various degrees of undress fighting over you.
Sure Hell Ride will makes it way to my DVD collection (I’m a weak man, damnit) but it should still be seen as a lesson to all would-be Tarantinos. It takes a lot of work to pull off a film like his (especially his earlier works). You only need one part of the film to not line up properly for the whole feature to turn to into a cruel joke. So learn from Larry Bishop — be sure to cast a bevy of beautiful playthings to try and cover it up! It saved this film from getting my worst rating.