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To Hell and Not Back

MOVIE REVIEW
Hell Ride (2008)

Hr00951_3
Will McGarry/Third Rail Releasing

Larry Bishop – best known for his starring roles in such Z-grade biker flicks as "Chrome and Hot Leather" – writes, directs and stars in "Hell Ride," a new, painstakingly self-conscious tribute to those not-so classics. That should basically tell moviegoers all they need to know about the tone, content and style here. The film apes the dated, simplistic focus on gang loyalties, comical bursts of overdone violence, and oppressive objectification of women so characteristic to the male-oriented genre.

Problematically, it does so with complete earnestness, disregarding the extraordinarily dated nature of the misogynous content on display and never attempting to bring the material into the present. It's impossible to take this stuff seriously, and even harder to understand why the filmmaker thought it could be viewed with anything but an ironic lens. The story covers distressingly pedestrian territory, chronicling the conflict between a gang of bikers led by Pistolero (Mr. Bishop) and a second ensemble headlined by the psychotic Billy Wings (Vinnie Jones).

The movie has it all: faded, off-color film stock, dust strewn landscapes, gyrating women and lots of tough guy posturing. It even has Dennis Hopper, back in vintage mode, complete with frilly leather jacket. Yet, as "Hell Ride" constantly evokes its predecessors one inescapable fact remains: This sort of thing, when enacted with a straight face, no longer works in this cinematic age. The film simply lacks the energy and the sense of spurning the status quo which permeated the sort of trashy, offbeat productions that originated in the 1960s as the new Hollywood's sleazy underbelly.

When the underground becomes mainstream, when Harvey and Bob Weinstein put their stamp of approval on the sort of motion picture that flew under the radar of their mogul predecessors, it loses a large portion of its appeal. At first glance, "Hell Ride" seems destined for the midnight movie circuit, which traditionally honors the best in outside the box, cult filmmaking. Yet, ironically, it tries so hard to achieve that status that it defies everything a midnight movie should stand for. It's the worst kind of deception, a film that pretends to be a lot more daring and different than it is.

HELL RIDE

Opens on Aug. 8 in the United States. 

Written and directed by Larry Bishop; director of photography, Scott Kevan ; edited by Blake West and William Yeh; music by Daniele Luppi; production designer, Tim Grimes; produced by Mr. Bishop, Michael Steinberg and Shana Stein; released by Third Rail Releasing. Running time: 1 hour 23 minutes. This film is rated R.

WITH: Larry Bishop (Pistolero), David Carradine (the Deuce), Dennis Hopper (Eddie Zero), Vinnie Jones (Billy Wings) and Michael Madsen (the Gent).

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