Studio: Indie Rights
Director: Melanie Aitkenhead
Writer: Tim Durham
Producer: Lauren Bates, Shaun Sanghani
Stars: Serinda Swan, Diego Bonita, Jake Lockett, Vanessa Dubasso, Reem Kadem, John D. Hickman, Pollyanna McIntosh
When a member¡¯s cousin gets raped at a frat party, an all-women biker gang stirs up a war by riding out for revenge.
Grimmfest Film Festival Review:
I don¡¯t know who writes the copy for Grimmfest¡¯s film festival guide, but that person belted it out of the ballpark on ¡°Revenge Ride.¡± The run-on sentence gives my own penchant for long lines a run for its money. But listen to this pure poetry, which not only succinctly summarizes the setup, but accurately describes the movie¡¯s savagely shaggy style to boot:
¡°A deliriously pulpy feminist biker revenge Western, clearly inspired by the various recent real-life scandals of frathouse football squad jocks getting away with gang rape with the collusion of their colleges, this draws narrative and stylistic tropes from both 50s teenage delinquent melodramas and 70s girl-gang vigilante movies, and features Pollyanna McIntosh in black leathers, as a tough-talking, ass-kicking lesbian Hell¡¯s Angel, improbably called ¡®Trigga,¡¯ presumably due to her hair-trigger temper rather than any love she might have for ONLY FOOLS AND HORSES or Roy Rogers movies. Plus, it has what appears to be a real all-female biker gang as extras. Seriously, what more could you ask for?¡±
That¡¯s not a log line. That¡¯s a complete, entirely enticing sell sheet shrunk down to one paragraph. And it¡¯s right on the money regarding exactly what brand of exploitation entertainment ¡°Revenge Ride¡± belongs to.
Serinda Swan, a Keri Russell lookalike if ever there was one, stars as Maggie. During introspective moments, Maggie takes contemplative drags on a cigarette and stares studiously while her memory relives a brutal experience with date rape. Maggie rebuilt her identity by becoming a member of the defiant Dark Moon motorcycle club. Now she finds freedom riding with fearless fighters who proudly patch their mantra, ¡°suck my p*ssy¡± on the back of their uniform leather vests.
Get used to stereotypical characteristics because ¡°Revenge Ride¡± employs a lot of them. You simply have to see the film in the fashion that the Grimmfest guide describes, i.e. an over-the-top cautionary tale laced with a gritty underground feel. Then familiarity starts properly feeding this revenge fantasy. ¡°Revenge Ride¡± is like a contemporary ¡°Reefer Madness¡± meets ¡°Satan¡¯s Sadists,¡± which adds up to an appealingly weirdo midnight movie.
Relishing her role with gonzo gusto you usually see from someone such as Jim Carrey, Pollyanna McIntosh comes on strong as gang leader Trigga. Why not? There¡¯s a grindhouse texture to the movie anyway. McIntosh merely takes the cue that she¡¯s featured in throwback trash made modern and runs full speed ahead.
Keegan, who wears the double whammy of being a frat boy and a collegiate quarterback, kicks off a violent volley of payback versus payback when he drugs and rapes Maggie¡¯s cousin Mary. Actor Jake Lockett seems a natural fit for the dirtball, coming with an anxious alpha vibe that winds Keegan appropriately tight with entitlement. Keegan of course has two cronies with douche-y names like Chad and Tanner. The ¡°I wasn¡¯t actually part of the assault and even tried to stop it¡± fella who always exists in these stories gets off easy by being named Brian.
¡°Revenge Ride¡¯s¡± message, if indeed it has one, gets mixed up due to all the tropes butting up against one another. Is the feminist empowerment subtext undermined by the token good guy counterpointing ¡°not all men are bad¡± while also rescuing Maggie like some damsel in distress? Is Trigga¡¯s justified desire for vengeance nullified by her violent drive to continue scorching earth despite caring calls to calm down? It¡¯s probably reading too much into the movie to take ¡°Revenge Ride¡± as a serious #MeToo metaphor instead of as a rough-and-tumble indie romper.
¡°Revenge Ride¡± shows more than a few of its DIY seams. Some handheld shots fall out of focus or shake so much that the subject¡¯s head momentarily falls out of frame. A couple of single-scene performers, I¡¯m looking at you girl-who-starts-an unprovoked-bar-fight, are clearly not seasoned actors either.
Yet there¡¯s a choppy charm to ¡°Revenge Ride¡¯s¡± homegrown aesthetic. The Midwestern backdrop that comes from shooting in Ohio showcases uncommon scenery. It feels fresh to see Dollar General signs and McDonald¡¯s arches on suburban streets instead of New York bridges or downtown L.A. skylines.
For a biker movie, ¡°Revenge Ride¡± could use more motorcycling. Other than Trigga, Maggie, and one more woman, other gang members are seldom seen, never heard, and only named by end credits. Dark Moon is more of a vague mass present in the background than a distinctively menacing motorcycle club, something reciprocated by only ever seeing three main creeps from the football team/frat house too.
Slack gets cut on shortfalls because with just 70 minutes in its runtime, ¡°Revenge Ride¡± doesn¡¯t have room to blow out its to-the-point narrative. Romances in particular, one involving Maggie and another involving Trigga, come together with unconvincing quickness that¡¯s arguably absurd. This becomes one more feather in ¡°Revenge Ride¡¯s¡± comic book cap though. Additional leeway falls in the film¡¯s favor due to the fun found in swapping typical cinema gender dynamics. It¡¯s refreshing to see a ¡®take charge¡¯ woman protectively telling her male love interest, ¡°I don¡¯t want you getting caught up in this¡± for a change.
Read through the Grimmfest description one more time and recognize this is the light a viewer must shine on ¡°Revenge Ride.¡± Failing that, try picturing cigarette burns, a slight sepia patina, and dirty scratches clawing at the screen. Suddenly ¡°Revenge Ride¡¯s¡± sharpness seems less cheesy and more intoxicating in a bizarro cult classic kind of way.
Review Score: 75