Movies in Brief: Hell Ride
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
If Larry Bishop didn’t exist, Quentin Tarantino would have had to invent him. Mr. Bishop, the director and star of “Hell Ride,” which makes its premiere Friday, was a notorious hell-raiser in 1960s Hollywood. The son of the Rat Packer Joey Bishop, he appeared in dozens of motorcycle exploitation movies such as “The Savage Seven” (1968), then bumped into Mr. Tarantino almost seven years ago. Mr. Tarantino told Mr. Bishop he would produce a directorial project for him if Mr. Bishop would embrace his destiny to make the greatest motorcycle movie of all time. Mr. Bishop agreed, and so with Sergio Leone’s Westerns as their guiding star, they embarked on the long process of making “Hell Ride.”
What a letdown. The first 30 minutes of the movie is wall-to-wall flashy gimmicks with little to recommend it. There are flashbacks galore to give the story some kind of “Once Upon a Time in the West” gravitas, and the camera gets itself all in a twist trying to be stylish while the soundtrack pumps out spaghetti Western Muzak. But you’re either a psychic or a liar if you can tell me what’s going on. Mr. Bishop plays Pistolero, the leader of a biker gang known as the Victors, who’s worried about the sudden reappearance of a rival gang, the 666ers, led by Billy Wings (Vinnie Jones). There are some nymphomaniac women taking off their clothes all over the place and there’s a guy named Deuce who may or may not be Mr. Jones.
It’s impossible to figure out why Pistolero keeps killing members of his own gang, and though the screen is packed with naked women, all of them sport matching implants, tans, and hair extensions, causing great confusion (it took me a while to realize that Pistolero had two girlfriends). After you give up trying to figure out what’s going on, there’s some fun violence, several loopy exchanges of dialogue that are pure kicky surrealism, and Michael Madsen steals the show as Pistolero’s right-hand man. But it’s amazing that two men can spend seven years making a movie and the end result doesn’t make a lick of sense.