By: Anthony Francis
From the opening roar of the motorcycle engines, director Melanie Atkinhead’s biker-revenge-action film “Revenge Ride” wastes no time, delivering the main character’s backstory with a jarring punch and a shadowed violence that announces the tough and rockin’ film to come.
Three college frat boys drug and rape a student named Mary (Vanessa Dubasso) and leave her outside on the main campus. The bad thing for the frat dudes is that Mary is the cousin of Maggie (a fantastic Serinda Swan). Maggie is a member of The Dark Moons, an all-female biker gang where each one has experienced a form of sexual of physical violence at the hands of a male.
Pollyanna McIntosh (as excellent and vicious as she was in Lucky McKee’s 2011 gem “The Woman”) plays Trigga, the leader of the gang who calls for instant revenge.
Serious conflict ensues when Maggie falls for one of the frat boys (who is innocent of the horrible crime), causing dangerous problems between her and Trigga.
What follows is a good, old-fashioned, vulgar and violent biker film that exists for no other reason than to entertain. And it does indeed entertain for most of the film.
Timothy Durham expanded his screenplay for his short “Blood Ride” into feature length and director Aitkenhead returned to direct.
While the film is proudly a throwback exploitation piece, it does not overdo the violence. The rape scene is mercifully short, and the revenge moments are bloody but don’t dwell on the carnage.
But carnage there is as the revenge plan does not go smoothly. The frat boys and the biker gang come to an all out war where lives will be lost and allegiances challenged.
It is important that this is a female-driven action film, as we have seen so many male biker films throughout the decades. Taking a cue from Herschel Gordon Lewis’ 1968 all-female outlaw biker film “She Devils on Wheels”, Aitkenhead’s film doesn’t try to exploit the physical appearances of its female cast and focuses more on character and situations.
While the rest of the gang is not given a lot to say beyond the celebratory howls after chanting their creed, both Maggie and Trigga are shaped into believable characters. The two women represent both sides of revenge.
For Maggie, she wants to see these frat boy scumbags punished for what they did to young Mary. Maggie is also the victim of a brutal rape, which led her to join the gang. But when she learns that one of the boys didn’t go along with the attack on Mary and tried to stop it, she wants him left out of it. That, and their budding romance that gives the film its Romeo and Juliet-styled conflict.
Trigga is the voice of undiluted fury. While her intentions are pure, she is blinded by the desire to seek vengeance for Mary. When Maggie argues that her new lover should be left out of all this, Trigga calls foul and says all the boys must pay. No quarter shall be given to anyone who was anywhere near the attack that night, guilty or innocent.
Eitan Almagor’s cinematography doesn’t get too slick but is careful enough not to make the film too gritty. While this is isintended as a throwback to the biker films of the 60s and 70s, Aitkenhead and her cameraman refuse to go the “modern Grindhouse” route by making it look like an old film. The filmmakers trust their audience to know what they are doing without hammering home a clever visual style.
As with any good biker film, the soundtrack is peppered with bluesy, guitar-driven, Rock songs that blast along and compliment the sight of leather clad bikers on hot chrome machines.
While the action scenes between the bikers and the frat boys (who refuse to admit when they are defeated) are excitingly brutal, the film’s one main issue is its abrupt ending.
Without spoilers I will say that a big finale that action fans would expect (and one that is promised) never comes. The finale is abrupt and pointless and a huge letdown.
That said, there is enough good in the rest of the film that one can overlook this massive shortcoming.
While the film has a few bumps (the rest of the gang is never developed, the frat boys are cliche, and the ending lets viewers down big time), there is enough to recommend this little cult gem.
Machismo is the villain here which gives this film an important place in modern genre films. Class and social status also come into play, taking a swipe at the entitled jerks who think they can roll over women in all aspects of society.
What better way to push back against an entitled, white male-driven society than biker film that exudes female empowerment.
“Revenge Ride” is a good biker/action film that has a message amongst its madness. Strap on and enjoy the ride!