Review: ‘Iron Horsemen’

(English dialogue)

(English dialogue)

Asatirical spin on late-’60s biker movies, with rural Finland effectively standing in for California, “Iron Horsemen” (aka “Bad Trip”) tips its helmet to B-movie maestros like Roger Corman, Monte Hellman, Herschell Gordon Lewis and, naturally, Dennis Hopper. Though it’s little more than a scant attempt to put a new slant on an old genre, this droll parody from the production stable of Aki Kaurismaki has enough hokey horsepower and retro-pop savvy on its side to lure a modest share of young urbanites and college crowds.

Bad Trip (Dominic Gould), an acid-head member of motorcycle gang the Cannibals, steals a bike belonging to group leader Candy (Nicky Tesco). Tracked down at his parents’ house, he soon learns the ruthless bikers live up to their name, serving his father for lunch, and tagging Ma as Candy’s personal plaything. Sentenced to death, Bad Trip is given 30 minutes to hotfoot it before the gang gives chase.

His weird encounters and narrow escapes flesh out the rest of the threadbare plot. Among the former are a wandering Russian with stars and stripes in his eyes (Kaurismaki); Trip’s flaky brother, who eats bugs in his tropical greenhouse (Jean-Marc Barr); and a biker witha calling for the priesthood who aids his escape (Matti Pellonpaa). A romantic interlude of sorts comes via a machine gun-toting, bank-robbing Che Guevara devotee, Rhonda (Laura Favali), who eventually dumps him for his lack of class consciousness.

From out of Trip’s dreams or acid-induced hallucinations comes the Silver Rider (Jim Jarmusch), a white-knight biker who helps him shake off his pursuers by rigging a decapitation trap. Pic sidesteps into Monty Python territory when the bikers’ dismembered heads keep talking.

Debuting writer/director Gilles Charmant (assistant director on Kaurismaki’s 1992 “La Vie de Boheme”) neatly captures the feel of the B movies he eulogizes and (somewhat smugly) derides by laying tinny pop tunes over the slapdash action , heightening color to garish extremes and drawing large, untethered performances from the cast. His main departure is in production values, creating a clean look and sound that many of the originals didn’t have.

Iron Horsemen

(FINNISH-FRENCH-ITALIAN)

Production

A Villealfa Filmprods. (Finland)/UGC, Noe Prods. (France)/Film Master Film (Italy) production. Produced by Aki Kaurismaki, Cedomir Kolar, Sergio Castellani. Executive producers, Klaus Heydemann, Marc Baschet. Co-producers, Yves Marmion, Frederique Dumas-Zajdela, Carlos Pasini Hansen. Directed, written by Gilles Charmant.

Crew

Camera (color), Timo Salminen; editor, Veikko Aaltonen; music, Wouter Zoon; production design, John Ebden; art direction, Mark Lavis; costume design, Marilyn Fitoussi; sound (Dolby), Jouko Lumme; assistant director , Pauli Pentti. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (Critics' Week), Sept. 9, 1994. Running time: 84 MIN.

With

Bad Trip ... Dominic Gould Rhonda ... Laura Favali Darling ... Kari Vaananen Candy ... Nicky Tesco Seeker ...Matti Pellonpaa Genghis Khan ... Saku Kuosmanen Guzzler ... Puntii Valtonen Zipper ... Antti Reini
With: Jean-Marc Barr, Jim Jarmusch, Aki Kaurismaki.
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