There’s a reason why movies end in a long list of credits. That’s because putting together a well-crafted film requires the talent of several people performing individual duties. As with most products, quality degrades when one person has to do the job of many. Regrettably, that’s exactly what happens in the production of Hell Ride, produced by Quentin Tarantino. Larry Bishop takes on the three arguably biggest jobs in this production – writer, director, lead actor – and the film suffers for it.
At its heart, Hell Ride is an updated “biker movie,” which was a film genre that was popular in the 1960s. Here we have two biker gangs – The Victors, led by Pistolero (Larry Bishop) who is presumably on the side of the angels, and the 666ers, led by all-around bad guy Billy Wings (Vinnie Jones). The 666ers are killing their way through The Victor’s ranks over an incident 30-years-ago involving a woman named Cherokee Kisum, now dead, but still often obsessed over by Pistolero. The story is more complicated than that, which is good, but unless you make certain connections without the film’s help, the plot can become incomprehensible.
For the average male viewer, the story probably won’t matter since there’s enough female full-frontal nudity to fill three softcore skin flicks. Pistolero is so macho he greets women by sliding his hand down their crotches instead of shaking hands. The sex pushes the envelope on gratuitousness, which seems to be in accordance with the biker movie genre, but for a modern mainstream film, it’s awkwardly out of place and slows down the movie.
Tarantino’s influence is heavy throughout Hell Ride, from its Kill Bill-esque beginning to its kitschy soundtrack, right down to the stylized dialog. Bishop writes whole scenes where dialog is exchanged focusing on one theme, like hell, fire or the number six. In Tarantino’s hands, these scenes might have been pulled off, but here they’re just silly. The actors do a decent job with the dialog, but special consideration goes to Dennis Hopper and David Carradine, despite having short screen-time.
Ultimately, Hell Ride exists for one reason: to make Larry Bishop look like a badass. For the most part he does. He rides a mean motorcycle without a helmet, he gets to execute some bad guys with a big gun and he sleeps with every woman he sees. In this biker world, he has no flaws, which is too bad, because perfect people don’t make for good cinema.
Hell Ride doesn’t skimp on extra content. If you’re looking for more insight into the film, there’s feature commentary with Larry Bishop and his Director of Photography Scott Kevan. There are also featurettes with cast member interviews that are starkly sober when compared to the outrageousness of the film. There’s also a refreshing video diary of Michael Madsen’s experience during the production. It’s enlightening to listen to the actors and directors discuss the craft of acting or filmmaking and what they have to say is just interesting enough to justify making the Hell Ride DVD part of your collection.