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Smokey Banks used to be one of the greatest bull riders in rodeo. But for the last few years this has-been cowboy has been riding the bookie and the bottle more, and taking a far worse beating than any bull ever delivered. Now, through a strange and sudden set of events, he is given an option : go to jail, or be a cowboy teacher at a Boy's Ranch. Saddled with a dozen young boys wild as any bull he ever faced, his mission was simple: teach young Danny (Brock Pierce) how to ride a bull. Very reluctantly, Smokey agrees, not realizing that Danny will be far more of a teacher to him than he ever dreamed. Written by
The Ride is a very different kind of film that was never designed to break box office figures but rather convey a message. With strong religious themes throughout, the film is very much down to interpretation. As an atheist, I was angered at how Danny (Brock Pierce) appeared to be forcing Smokey (Michael Biehn) in to religion. This is how I saw it but it is entirely possible that Danny was simply trying to open Smokey's mind. Smokey's inevitable conversion to Christianity, whilst infuriating to me, was handled very well by Biehn.
Where the film flourishes is in the opposing sides to Smokey's character. On one hand he is a selfish drunk but also he is compassionate and cares deeply for Danny and Linette. Whilst not always reacting the best way to situations, Smokey knows what's right and eventually comes through. The relationship between Smokey and Danny is also very touching. Whilst not agreeing with Danny's behaviour, he displays great courage and a purely platonic love for the entire world. The bonds between the characters are visibly, very strong and you can't help but feel great empathy all the way through the film.
The main reason to watch this film is Michael Biehn. Whilst he should be in much better films than this, Biehn takes his role very seriously and gives one of his strongest performances in a very long time. Biehn walks a fine line between arrogance and charisma as he did in K2 and it is very convincing that he makes friends and enemies in equal measure. It is a very demanding role as Smokey Banks is a very complex character and Biehn as always exceeds all requirements.
Religion is still very much a taboo subject and whilst I myself am not Christian, I admire the film maker's courage in showing his beliefs. The major axe I have to grind with this film is the culture it portrays. I hate bull rodeos as they are immensely cruel and the whole cowboy way of life theme becomes a tad tiresome. The 'hicksville' ranch that Banks is staying at is so stereotyped that you can picture George W. Bush being extremely happy there.
The Ride is fantastic once you look through the cheesy themes as it touches the emotions with great power. It is the inner core of the film that remains in the mind after watching, making The Ride well worth watching.
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