A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie -- which was executive-produced by grindhouse aficionado Quentin Tarantino -- has all of the violence, language, and extreme behavior of one of his films, but none of the wit, well-drawn characters, or cinematic brilliance. Tarantino's involvement may pique teens' interest, but the constant and extreme level of sexual content (including full-frontal nudity), language, drinking, drug use, and other adult situations isn't age-appropriate for them (or for just about anyone, really).
What's the story?
Pistolero (writer-director Larry Bishop) leads the Victors, a hard-riding, hard-living biker gang; The Gent (Michael Madsen) and Comanche (Eric Balfour) as his right-hand men. Pistolero is obsessed with a crime that took place 32 years ago, in the summer of '76 -- the Fourth of July murder of Cherokee Kisum (Julia Jones) -- and he's finally in a place where he can avenge her death against the men responsible: Billy Wings (Vinnie Jones) and The Deuce (David Carradine). But first Pistolero has to convince his two most trusted lieutenants that his plan is worth disrupting The Victors' status quo.
Is it any good?
Backed by Quentin Tarantino, this mediocre movie is inspired by the motorcycle gang exploitation films of the '60s and '70s. Writer-director-star Bishop has a track record in the genre, and he gets all the trappings right: There are plenty of shots of our heroes on the open road, as well as plenty of butts, breasts, and babes in between the murders and other felonies. But Hell Ride lacks an actual storyline; the thin plot can't support Bishop's fondness for over-the-top violence and sex. Other scenes -- like Pistolero's peyote-aided vision quest -- have more to do with referencing similar sequences in cheapie biker flicks of the past than they do with telling a coherent, connected story that moves forward and keeps viewers' interest.
Hell Ride is also amazingly sexist; female characters are either potty-mouthed sex kittens or speechless, topless set dressing. The film's big revelation of Pistolero's motivation to avenge Cherokee's death is as cliched as it is obvious, and it's not enough of a revelation to make us want to root for the cold-blooded murderers that Bishop has set up as his anti-heroes. Hell Ride is greasy and grimy, grim and gritty, and full of Bishop's evident love for biker-gang movies from the past. Unfortunately, it's just not very good.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the movie's intentionally over-the-top material. At what point do viewers become desensitized to this type of content? Is the excess meant to be funny? Do you think films like this one only appeal to a certain audience? Who is that audience, and why are they drawn to material like this? Families can also discuss the cultural context of motorcycle-gang movies. What need or fantasy do these stories of the open road and bad behavior satisfy? Is the film's extensive stylistic debt to '60s biker films a fond tribute to a bygone genre or just empty, stylish grave-robbing?
- In theaters: August 6, 2008
- On DVD or streaming: October 27, 2008
- Cast: Eric Balfour, Larry Bishop, Michael Madsen
- Director: Larry Bishop
- Studio: Dimension
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Run time: 90 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong violence, sexual content including graphic nudity and dialogue, language and drug use.
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