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The Last Ride (2004)

Directed by:

Guy Norman Bee

Rating: 4/10

Running Time: 81 minutes

UK Certificate: 12

On DVD

Country: United States

The year is 1970. With his wife bleeding to death in the back of his 1969 Pontiac GTO, armed robber Ronnie Purnell realises he has had his last ride and, with his young son Aaron looking on, gives himself up to sheriff Darryl Kurtz at the Mexican border. Cut to thirty years later, and it seems that Ronnie’s outlaw ways have skipped a generation. Aaron (Will Patton) has been brought up by Kurtz (Fred Ward) and become a tight-assed, straight-as-an-arrow cop, while Aaron’s son Matt (Chris Carmack) is an eighteen-year old street-racer driving way too fast on a path to criminality, much to the annoyance of his girlfriend-cum-mechanic J.J. (Nadine Velazquez). So when grandpa Ronnie (Dennis Hopper), fresh out of prison, sets off to retrieve his vintage wheels and settle a few scores, Matt readily offers his help – even if that means outmotoring the entire San Diego Police Department and a determined killer-for-hire. In the end, though, only Kurtz (who is far less law-abiding than he seems) can be in the passenger seat when Ronnie takes his one last ride.

While blood may prove thicker than water for the Purnells’ three generations, what really fills their veins is petrol in this below-par blend of ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ and The Fast and the Furious. No sooner has Ronnie got out of prison than he is swapping car specifications with his new-found grandson as though they were BOTH adolescents, and insisting (like some mad person) that everybody refer to his beloved car as ‘the Judge’. Yet for all its obsession with automobiles, ‘The Last Ride’ rarely gets the viewer’s pulse out of neutral. When Matt’s friends greet an early example of his driving with an enthusiastic “Crazy, dude – wicked crazy!”, you are left wondering whether they just watched the same bland sequence you did – while the film’s ‘climax’, in which Ronnie drives round in circles on the spot, literally goes nowhere fast. So compared to the high-octane highjinks of 2 Fast 2 Furious or Torque, this film seems to be running on economy unleaded.

It is equally difficult to get excited by any of the characters, who are little more than cardboard cutouts, but far more interesting is what they represent – a nation still struggling with the confused fallout from the late sixties and early seventies, when the hypocrisy of the authorities was exposed, one generation turned against another, and finally high idealism came crashing down into low crime. In the classic ‘Easy Rider’ (1969), the disillusionment of a whole era was expressed by Dennis Hopper’s famous line “We blew it” – and while, aside from ‘Blue Velvet’, Hopper’s resuscitated career has had little of merit to offer the filmgoing world, it makes perfect sense that he should here play an anti-authoritarian character who ‘blew it’ at the beginning of the seventies, only to return in the present to reclaim his legacy and haunt those who have tried to forget him. For now that Nixon-like election-rigging is back in full swing and the US is facing its second Vietnam in Iraq, America’s history can no longer be kept hidden in some dark cell. It is the age of Hopper all over again, back for one last ride.

It's Got: A character near the beginning describing a robbery in terms that come close to summarising the whole cash-in rationale behind the film ("Zero risk, 15 minutes, in and out, 25-30 Gs"); Chris (The O.C.) Carmack looking like Caper van Dien, and complaining that his beautiful girlfriend is "constantly riding me"; Will Patton looking more and more like George Bush Jr; and Dennis Hopper shuffling through his rôle like someone who has done too many drugs back in the day, and at one point saying "Im sorry. I - I mean, Ive missed so much. My mind sometimes...", and then staring off into the distance as though he never quite left the set of Apocalypse Now (where he also hung out with a character named Kurtz).

It Needs: Better writing, better characterisation, better stuntwork.

DVD Extras Extras: Scene selection, optional subtitles for the hearing impaired, and not another thing. DVD Extras Rating: 1/10

Alternatives:

2 Fast 2 Furious, Bonnie and Clyde, Easy Rider, Running on Empty, The Fast and the Furious, The Getaway, Torque

Summary

Below average motorhead movie that left its heart at the end of the sixties.

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