Wednesday, May 4, 2011
The Hard Ride
The Hard Ride
D: Burt Topper (also screenwriter and producer)
Black biker killed in Vietnam leaves his custom bike to his white Marine buddy, to be delivered to his former MC leader--who isn't the only one who wants it.
Lenny, black former outlaw biker, ends up a dead Marine in Vietnam. For some strange reason, his death means his closest buddy, Phil (Robert Fuller), redeploys stateside. Phil gets Lenny's "in case I don't make it" letter, leaving everything to the orphanage that reared him, except for a nice bit of change for Phil, and a request that he deliver his chromed out custom bike Baby to his old club leader, Big Red.
Phil meets up with Sheryl (Sherry Bain), Lenny's ex-(white) girl, who clearly doesn't trust him. At the (great) bar and grille where Sheryl works, he meets some bikers who promise to take him to Big Red. They take him instead to their cool-ass desert hangout, and "Big Red" is actually their own leader, Grady (William Bonner*). Not tricked for long, Phil fights his way out.
The bulk of the middle of the film is the Phil-Sheryl relationship, and heavy-handed liberal themes. He's a square, she's a free spirit; he's no racist, Lenny was like his brother, darn it, etc. A cop pulls them over just to check out the bike (squares ain't so bad), a black thug figures she's an easy piece who just digs dark meat... All the straights/heads, black/white tedium you'd expect.
Finally out of the reach of Grady's gang --Big Red made it clear that he'd kill any of them who came near his territory-- Phil and Sheryl finally track Red. He turns out to be a prick who never particularly cared for Lenny, but Phil lays the will on him: Show up at the funeral, and Baby is yours. Red agrees.
Will it be that easy? Grady and his boys look to make sure it isn't...
Other than Baby, the only thing here particularly exceptional was the soundtrack by Harley Hatcher. The only word that comes to mind is competent. It's a pretty original story for the genre, and moves along at a decent pace. Early use of the Vietnam flashback device, I guess, when Phil fights Red and war sound effects are used. But the messages hit you with less subtlety than the most overwrought episode of a Norman Lear tv show. And everything just begs to be just a little better. Mike, the tough padre who runs the orphanage, should have been a bigger character, for example. A good watch, but nothing special. I'll give it a hard 2.5.
*Didn't want to clutter shit up with such an aside. Bonner was also in "Angels Wild Women," another one I've seen recently for the first time. Seeing this, I immediately recognized him as the biker in the dreadful "Dracula vs Frankenstein." I saw that movie once--on "Creature Double Feature" when I was about 8. No clue why, but it's seared in my mind like no other horror film. Weird.