Review: Hell Ride Is a One-of-a-Kind Experience Despite Its Flaws

Here's the quickest litmus test to decide whether or not there's even a chance you'll enjoy biker-movie homage, Hell Ride: did watching the Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino two-fister, Grindhouse, leave you grinning or bitching?

If it was the latter, skip Hell Ride. Seriously, you won't enjoy it. Not a lick. I'd also like to point out that I think you have terrible taste, since Grindhouse is destined to be recognized as one of the most ambitious, original flicks of the new millennium, the sort of unique experience only Rodriguez and Tarantino could dream up, but that's beside the point. Because of your dislike for something as ingenious as Grindhouse, might I suggest checking out the latest Traveling Pants movie opening this weekend? I imagine its attempt to reinvent the "traveling pants" sub-genre of teen movies will blow your mind!

Back on topic: Hell Ride -- starring Larry Bishop (who also wrote and directed), Michael Madsen and Vinnie Jones -- will feel like a waste of time for you unless a) you're over 50 and remember biker movies of the '60s fondly, or, b) you share the same taste as Tarantino in gratuitous genre filmmaking. Oh, or, c) you like female nudity. There's so much of it here, you would think the combination of it with the ever-increasing degrees of violent bloodshed would have sent the MPAA's collective heads spinning, Linda Blair-style.

Bishop, once a staple of the biker movie, wrote Hell Ride on Tarantino's prompting. In fact, Tarantino, who gave Bishop a bit role in Kill Bill, Volume 2 as Madsen's assassin's foul-mouthed boss, convinced the actor that writing and directing Hell Ride was his God-given destiny. The result of all that ego-boosting is ... well, as Madsen recently told me, a movie with a whole lot of "personality." Tarantino's movies have a whole lot of personality, too, but they also have a clear story -- something Hell Ride does not. I mean, Bishop knows what the story is, there seems to be some sort of through-line, but mostly his epic quest of revenge rambles here and there with only the over-stylized, though often inspired filmmaking to keep it from flying apart.

Pistolero (Bishop) is the badass leader of the motorcycle gang the Victors, while Madsen plays his tuxedo-wearing lieutenant, the Gent. Along for the ride are Eric Balfour as rookie Comanche and Dennis Hopper, one of the legends of the biker movies, as veteran Scratch Zero. It seems their once out-of-commission rivals, the 666s, have regrouped under the leadership of Billy Wings (Jones) and are determined to wipe out the Victors, which they pretty much manage to do as Pistolero works his grand plan to come out on top and exact revenge for the death of his lover, Cherokee Kisum, 32 years ago. This is all told in oft-jumbled flashbacks that try to expound on the present, even though the present makes little sense either. The important thing is you just stick around for the fun, which there is much of. Pistolero and Billy Wings are as tough as they come, and watching them inflict carnage on each other's gangs is grin-inducing. The biker movie might not translate all that well to modern cinema, much as Grindhouse didn't, but one thing's for sure -- Hell Ride's not like anything else you'll see this year. That alone is worth the price of admission for anyone sick of the same regurgitated storylines and movie experiences.

Grade: C+