There was a brief moment, 10 years ago, when it looked like Quentin Tarantino was about to jump tracks as a filmmaker. His highly underrated Jackie Brown was a complete surprise to many fans and critics were unprepared for a complex and mature character study of middle-aged redemption dressed up as a low-
key crime caper. Nevertheless, the movie showed that not only could the former video-store geek write three-dimensional characters, he could tell a real-world story, one that didn't require narrative pyrotechnics, self-conscious pop-clever monologues, and too-cool-for-school posturing.
But it was not to be.
Instead QT has dedicated his enormous talents to fetishistic crap like Kill Bill and Grindhouse. Don't get us wrong: It's clever, highly entertaining crap that brilliantly subverts and venerates lowbrow cinema. But it's still crap.
Too bad Larry Bishop doesn't understand that. With Tarantino signing on as his executive producer, the son of late comedian Joey Bishop gets to show the world that he is a true "grindhouse" filmmaker. Unfortunately, he's not a very good one. As the writer, director and star of Hell Ride, Bishop skips irony and subtext to deliver a glossy, adoring tribute to the cheesy biker flicks he starred in during the late '60s and early '70s. Sadly, he seems to forget that there was a reason so few audiences came out for movies like Chrome and Hot Leather and The Devil's 8. They sucked.
To recount Hell Ride's ridiculously convoluted plot would be a waste of space, but suffice to say that past-middle-age Bishop gets to pose in leather with his shades perched on the tip of his nose and have lots of hot women tell him how much they want to fuck him. There's uninspired gunplay, a few dozen silicon-enhanced tits and cameos from Dennis Hopper and David Carradine.
Humorless, lethargic and mercifully short, Hell Ride can barely muster enough energy to reach a conclusion. Bishop is good at creating characters that exist in their own rarefied world; he just can't develop a coherent story for them. More tragically, he's unable to do anything new or clever with the biker genre. His one contribution to this exercise is a series of showy disjointed flashbacks that supposedly fill us in on why the film's two motorcycle gangs — the Victors and the 666'ers — have it out for each other. You'd have to really care to follow along.
While rolling on his hog, reliving his "glory" days with a few well-known B-listers might've been fun for Bishop, for the audience it's a waste of 10 bucks. Michael Madsen, Eric Balfour and Vinnie Jones must have owed Tarantino big-time to get roped into this project and, predictably, they offer half-assed performances. In Hell Ride's sole entertaining moment, Madsen seems to acknowledge this by sitting in a tree and tooting on a beer bottle. "Look," he says, "I'm an owl."
Jeff Meyers writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].