Ride With The Devil

"Good"

Ride With The Devil Review


As Civil War dramas go, the unromanticized anti-epic "Ride With the Devil" is the polar opposite of "Gone With the Wind."

Bleak, deceptively simple and realistic, the battles are dirty, bloody and unwieldy, the heroes are reluctant young soldiers, fighting only because they feel compelled to do so.

It's a story of a handful of provisional soldiers in a part of the Civil War fought on the Western frontier of Missouri -- hundreds of miles from the definitive action -- where, in the absence of official battalions from the North or the South, neighbors have taken up arms against each other in hit-and-run guerrilla skirmishes that will ultimately decide nothing.

Based on Daniel Woodrell's novel "Woe to Live On" and directed by Ang Lee, who seems these days to specialize in nailing the moods and cultures of eras gone by ("Sense and Sensibility," "The Ice Storm"), this isn't a large-scale war movie with massively staged battles, and it's not about the greater political and humanitarian issues of the war. It's about individual tragedies and personal triumphs in the face of horrible bloodshed.

Tobey Maguire (also in this week's "The Cider House Rules"), stars as the unassuming son of a Dutch immigrant, initially uninterested in the conflict until Northern-sympathizing Jayhawkers murder his father.

Over the next year he becomes a tentative soldier for the Southern-aligned Bushwhackers, defending his way of life and seeking revenge in a makeshift army, hiding out in forests and barns along side a motley crew of equally untrained neighbors (Skeet Ulrich), loyal blacks (Jeffrey Wright) and dangerous, loose-cannon soldiers of fortune (JONATHAN RHYS-MEYERS).

There is no typical story arch here and no cinematically grandiose shots of cavalry thundering over hills in massive invasions or climactic death scenes. But the real nitty gritty of 19th Century warfare -- the brutality, the primitive violence of unsophisticated firearms -- is powerfully depicted on a soldier-by-soldier scale.

However, "Ride" is more about the way the war devastated simple Southerners, the futility of the fight they waged, and the personal journeys of this handful of men.

There's little in the way of excitement here (although the few spontaneous battle scenes do have spirit), but Lee's gentle stream approach is so natural that even the inevitable people-are-people bonding between initially racist Maguire and proud, quiet Wright ("Basquiat") feels unscripted and sincere. They find common ground in being thrust together into circumstances where neither of them feel they belong.

Just for the record, Wright gives the best, most subtly complex performance in the film as a black man fighting for the South out of loyalty to his friend (Ulrich, "Chill Factor"), rather than loyalty to the cause. He is the movie's conscience.

Although "Ride With the Devil" opens with a rather clumsy, expository history lesson, and it takes a few scenes to adjust to seeing these particular actors in a costume drama, Lee's rather contemporary casting is more effective than one might think, with the eloquent and well-written period dialogue (by "Ice Storm" scribe James Schamus) flowing with genuine weight from even Ulrich's Calvin Klein lips.

Even sweet-'n'-sexy folk-pop diva Jewel does a commendable job with her first acting role, as a war widow who helps hide the Bushwhackers on her in-law's property, becoming the object of desire for both Ulrich and Maguire.

There is one notable exception, however: Jonathan Rhys-Davies looks like he's had trouble shaking his "Velvet Goldmine" glam-rock persona. With his Fabio-esque mane, milky skin and sexpot pout, he couldn't be more out of place if he was added the film in post-production like Jar-Jar Binks.



Ride With The Devil

Facts and Figures

Run time: 138 mins

In Theaters: Friday 5th November 1999

Budget: $38M

Distributed by: Universal Studios

Production compaines: Universal Pictures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 64%
Fresh: 42 Rotten: 24

IMDB: 6.8 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Jake Roedel, as Jack Bull Chiles, as Daniel Holt, as Sue Lee Shelley, as Pitt Mackeson, as Black John, as George Clyde, as Alf Bowden, as Orton Brown

Also starring:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Patriots Day Movie Review

Patriots Day Movie Review

The third time's a charm for Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg, who previously teamed...

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

It's no surprise that this creep-out horror thriller is packed with whizzy visual invention, since...

It's Only the End of the World Movie Review

It's Only the End of the World Movie Review

At just 27 years old, Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan has an almost overwhelming set of...

Hidden Figures Movie Review

Hidden Figures Movie Review

This film recounts such a great true story that we don't mind the fact that...

The Founder Movie Review

The Founder Movie Review

This is the story of Ray Kroc, the man who created the concept of McDonald's....

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

Keanu Reeves picks up his supremely efficient hitman immediately where the 2015 original left him:...

Fences Movie Review

Fences Movie Review

After winning Tony Awards on Broadway, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis reteam for a film...

Advertisement
The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

A spin-off from 2014's awesome The Lego Movie, this raucously paced action-comedy is proof that...

The Space Between Us Movie Review

The Space Between Us Movie Review

While the premise of this movie makes it look like a sci-fi adventure, the truth...

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

On paper, the idea of a two-hour 40-minute German comedy may not seem very promising,...

Gold Movie Review

Gold Movie Review

Based on a true story, this lively and sometimes outrageous adventure is packed with twists...

Loving Movie Review

Loving Movie Review

While this film tackles a huge issue in the history of race relations in America,...

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

It's been 20 years since we last saw four freewheeling young junkies from Edinburgh spiral...

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Based on an astounding true story, this battlefield drama mixes warm emotion with intense action...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.