Dumb dialogue and smart action characterize “Riders,” a revisitation of the “Point Break” recipe of bank robbery and extreme sports, with Montreal serving this time as the background canvas for various risky behaviors. French-initiated, English-lingo production is never less than watchable and occasionally quite a bit of fun in the eye-candy and adrenaline departments. But the most memorable thing about the pic is Steven Berkoff’s Razzie-ready rendition of an American Southern accent. Ready for that seg of the international market that’s always on the lookout for adequate, reasonably entertaining filler, pic’s cast should continue to attract curious viewers on TV and video after theatrical dates.
Given its central quartet of under-30 daredevils who put their athletic prowess in the service of felonies, “Riders” is a regular catalog of don’t-try-this-at-home stunts. Lensed by Cesar-winning d.p. Tetsuo Nagata (“The Officers’ Ward”), the widescreen package, under the command of action vet and “Taxi” helmer Gerard Pires, looks pretty good on a budget of $15 million. But the story is downright silly.
Slim (Stephen Dorff), along with g.f. Alex (Karen Cliche), Otis (Cle Bennett) and Frank (Steven McCarthy), intends to get rich quick by robbing banks and hijacking armored cars. Group plans to get away with the loot via snazzy roller blading, fearless driving, displays of underwater prowess or short-drop skydiving. As Lt. Jake Magruder (Bruce Payne) puts it to his fellow cops after the gang skates away with $300,000 in its daypacks, “They’ve got ice water in their veins and they can skate like hell. They’re good, they’re dangerous and I want ’em.”
However, after lucking into $20 million in negotiable bearer bonds, the foursome finds the Mob on their tail, in the person of fire-and-brimstone preacher Surtayne (Berkoff, in a greaser hairdo and outlandish accent). Also chasing them is a slinky detective, Karen Svenson (Natasha Henstridge).
Power chords, burning rubber, car chases and, uh, more car chases make up bulk of pic, en route to unmasking the mystery man who’s compelling the crafty quartet to risk their lives for his gain.
To an even greater extent than in John Carpenter’s “Ghosts of Mars,” Henstridge has an inherent dignity that makes her convincing in dopey situations with even dopier dialogue. Dorff is fine as the brains of the outfit, while Payne is too stiff and Berkoff too loose. Bennett enlivens a funny bit in which he poses as a Jamaican custodial worker to penetrate police headquarters.