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Quentin Tarantino once said that to succeed in the film industry you had to make your own Pulp Fiction or Reservoir Dogs. Writer/actor/director Larry Bishop seems to have taken that advice a little too literally with Hell Ride and concocted a messy homage that borrows much too heavily in its visuals, music, camera-work, and time-altering storytelling. But to properly mimic a Tarantino film, one has to have a knack for constructing creative conversations; unfortunately Hell Ride's primary derailing element is its atrocious ramblings and vulgar monologues that only work to disgust and confuse the audience while simultaneously invoking pity for the actors just for being involved.
The anti-hero protagonist biker gang, The Victors, consists of several weathered vigilantes who bring their own brand of bloodthirsty justice to the lawless roads. The leader, Pistolero (Larry Bishop), is hell-bent on revenge and putting out fires. The Gent (Michael Madsen) just tries to balance his chaotic, psychotic symphony of life with putting lead into anyone who crosses his boss, and Comanche (Eric Balfour) follows with a fierce loyalty and a mysterious past.
On the villainous front, Deuce (David Carradine) is the mastermind who orchestrates from afar, though not quite far enough, and Billy Wings (Vinnie Jones) spits venom and lewd explanations for his tattoos while toting a harpoon gun and a general disdain for life. While these characters might sound interesting on paper, once they're forced to rant horrendously ill-conceived dialogue all traces of cool disappear faster than the funding should for Bishop's next film.
While Hell Ride is riddled with imperfections and missed opportunities, the main facet of its undoing lies in the poorly devised conversations. And because Bishop's main influences are the talky films of Tarantino, there are a lot of them. The first twenty minutes of the movie are nearly unintelligible and would probably make as much sense muted. By the time Pistolero's main squeeze is introduced and certain phrases are overused to the point of nausea, you'll pray for both death and the ability to turn the sound off. Even Dennis Hopper has trouble remaining cool while spouting off such goofy dialogue.
Have you ever repeated a word or phrase to yourself so many times that it just doesn't sound right or even make sense anymore? Bishop starts there and then keeps the madness going until you envy the characters on screen getting their heads cut off. And when the dialogue finally takes a break, we're treated to interspersed shots of nude female oil wrestling and throats being slashed. I'm not sure what effect Bishop hoped to attain, but I doubt he found it.
Hell Ride wants to pay homage to Quentin Tarantino films, Robert Rodriguez films, and every movie that idolizes the violent and devil-may-care attitudes of bikers. But while its intentions may be noble, the horrendously cringe-worthy dialogue and the hyper-stylized timeline-mangling editing prevents the audience from becoming invested with the generic tough-guy characters. By the time we figure out the mystery behind the characters' motives (and it may be awhile before you even realize there's a mystery to be solved), it's just too hard to care anymore. And while everyone on screen is clearly having fun, they've entirely neglected to translate any of that entertainment to the audience.
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