Sign up for our free newsletter
Free D.C. news, delivered to your inbox daily.
Dear Quentin Tarantino: Please put your wallet away. Or at least beg the filmmaking world to forget that you ever reintroduced the concept of “grindhouse” cinema. Death Proof, your half of 2007’s self-titled ode to the genre, was bad. Hostel II, the torture-porn flick you financed, wasn’t any better. And now you helped birth Hell Ride, which dares to consider itself an homage to Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns but is more like the Zombie Strippers of biker movies.
Larry Bishop, son of Joey, writes, directs, and stars, which accounts for 99 percent of the film’s problems. From its opening scene—which features a cheesy-looking, desert-friendly version of the naked-chick-on-a-clamshell hallucination—Hell Ride is an incoherent joke that misses campiness by miles. It’s tedious to suss out that a gang called the Victors—headed by Pistolero (Bishop) and including the Gent (Michael Madsen in a ruffled prom shirt) and Comanche (Eric Balfour)—are looking for revenge against, I swear, the 666ers, a rival gang headed by the Deuce (David Carradine), who killed one of its own and apparently also was responsible for the 1976 murder
of Pistolero’s girlfriend. Eddie Zero (Dennis Hopper) is also involved, along with a lot of horny, naked women. (All part of the Victors’ “Three Bs” code of “bikes, beer, and booty.”)
Bishop is borderline repulsive as Pistolero, with an orange Mystic Tan, creepy bug-eyed leer, and a slouch-shouldered, wide-stance posture. But more painful is the dialogue, which tries to be rhythmically repetitious like its Pulp Fiction master: Particularly ludicrous are two sex scenes—both involving, surprise, Bishop—in which temptress Angelina (Claudia Salinas), always writhing, first asks to be “fucked” about 1,000 times (to a Neko Case song—classy!) and later enlists Pistolero to help her beat a fire metaphor to the grave. (In case you were wondering, it starts with “My pussy is on fire.”)
Also sloppy is Bishop’s storyboarding, which repeats flashbacks as often as Angelina’s dick requests as if viewers were victims of extensive shock treatment. As far as actual shocks, there aren’t any. After a good decade of torture porn, deaths-by-arrow and throat-slittings, no matter how deliberate, are easily dismissible if the story itself is bad enough to make you angry, which covers about everything, except the hyper-colorized, retro opening credits. Those are cool.