November 13, 2008
The story goes that Quentin Tarantino is a fan of Larry Bishop’s films and when the two filmmakers finally met on the set of Kill Bill (2003); Tarantino reportedly told Bishop that if he wrote and directed an AIP-style biker film he would produce it. Bishop hadn’t directed anything since the embarrassingly awful Mad Dog Time (1996). Bishop wrote a screenplay and Tarantino used his clout with the Weinstein brothers and the result is Hell Ride (2008).
Pistolero (Bishop) is the leader of a biker gang known as the Victors. The Gent (Madsen) is his right-hand man and Comanche (Balfour) is the young upstart and resident loose cannon. We meet them as they bury one of their own and then proceed to kill everyone responsible for his death. In the process, they find out that their bitter enemies, rival biker gang Six Six Six are back in the area and moving in on their turf. The rest of the film plays out the beef between the Victors and the Six Six Sixers which dates back to the ‘70s and the death of Pistolero’s true love.
The dialogue in Hell Ride is as appropriately cheesy as you would expect from a movie that pays homage to those no frills, drive-in exploitation flicks from the 1960s and 1970s. The dialogue tries to be clever but just sounds silly and maybe that’s the point but it doesn’t work even in a so-bad-it’s-good kinda way.
No biker movie would be complete without an appearance by Dennis Hopper, one of the stars of the Citizen Kane (1941) of biker movies, Easy Rider (1969). Naturally, he plays a legendary biker. Hell Ride gives B-movie veterans like David Carradine, Vinnie Jones, and Michael Madsen an excuse to mix it up with naked women and try to recapture a time when they were considered cool. Unfortunately, it just comes across as sad most of the time.
Like Mad Dog Time, Hell Ride is one big, cinematic ego stroke for Bishop as he plays a soulful biker who surrounds himself with ample T&A and gets to act like a bad-ass. Every beautiful woman wants to be with him and all the bad guys want him dead. However, the film’s soundtrack is a snazzy mix of surf music, spaghetti western tunes, and vintage rock ‘n’ roll songs from the ‘60s. All things being equal, the final showdown is pretty cool and finally gives Pistolero something to do after a movie full of posturing. The problem with Hell Ride is that it tries too hard to be drop-dead cool biker movie and this takes you out of the story because it feels forced and self-conscious.
There is an audio commentary by writer/director/producer Larry Bishop and director of photography Scott Kevan. They talk about the challenges of shooting on a grueling 20-day schedule and touch upon various aspects of the production, like casting. Bishop claims that he originally wrote a 400-page novel (?!) and Quentin Tarantino convinced him to adapt it into a 135-page screenplay. Bishop speaks quite passionately about the movie and Kevan asks him questions while also offering a few of his own observations.
“The Making of Hell Ride” takes a brief look at how the film came together. Larry Bishop talks about how he met Tarantino who suggested that he make the greatest biker movie. The cast speaks admiringly of Bishop who comes across as a pretty smart guy.
“The Babes of Hell Ride” examines the lovely ladies in the film. Bishop talks about the key female characters, in particular, Nada, played by Leonor Varela who also talks about how she convinced the director that she didn’t have to appear naked in any scenes.
“The Guys of Hell Ride” takes a look at the main characters with the cast talking about them. Bishop said that John Wayne’s character in The Searchers (1956) was a starting off point for Pistolero. Bishop knew Madsen from Kill Bill and wrote the Gent specifically for him.
“The Choppers of Hell Ride” examines all of the cool motorcycles used in the film. Bishop says that he saw the bikes as characters with each one reflecting the character who rides it.
“Michael Madsen’s Video Diary” features all kinds of footage of the actor working on the movie. He offers some observations on what it was like to make it.
Finally, there is a Red Band trailer that shows some of the naughtier bits from the movie.