×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Ride

A rideshare goes awry in this middling indie thriller.

Director:
Jeremy Ungar
With:
Jessie T. Usher, Bella Thorne, Will Brill.
Release Date:
Oct 5, 2018

1 hour 16 minutes

A short trip to a hazy finish line, thriller “Ride” has a decent premise in the driver of an Uber-type rideshare service finding himself imperiled by the hidden agenda of an increasingly threatening passenger. But despite its brief runtime, writer-director Jeremy Ungar’s film has space enough to never quite settle on a tone, reducing its suspense potential by various gambits — in particular an antagonist whose primary impact is more annoying than frightening.

Competently crafted, this L.A.-set indie opening on 10 U.S. screens (simultaneous with digital-formats release) a week after its LA Film Festival premiere is competently crafted enough to work well as a résumé-builder for its participants, but also underwhelmingly conceived enough to impress viewers as little more than a forgettable time-killer.

Nattily dressed aspiring actor James (Jessie T. Usher) starts his shift as a driver for the taxi-alternative app “Ride” by picking up attractive Jessica (Bella Thorne). They hit it off to the point where upon exiting, she invites him to join her friends for a drink once he’s done working.

Next up is Bruno (Will Brill), a slightly older man who immediately seems a bit shady. He dangles large bills to circumvent Ride’s standard protocols, basically hiring James to drive him around all night without a fixed destination. He seems to want company as much as a chauffeur, yet his is the kind of excess chumminess that you sense could turn ugly on a dime. After a couple of initial stops — including one where Bruno’s absence is punctuated by what sounds like gunfire — he persuades James to take up Jessica’s offer, and further invite her to a “party with a hot tub in Malibu.”

The newly-met trio have fun for a bit. But very soon Bruno shows his true colors, to the others’ considerable alarm. (Suffice it to say that by this point, there is weaponry involved.) Trapped, they have to do his bidding, which is impulsive, mean-spirited, and quite certain not to end well.

As the protagonists drive around Greater Los Angeles, their lives apparently at stake, “Ride’s” pressing concern becomes whether our protagonists can escape Bruno. We’d like to escape him, too — not so much because he’s a terror, as because he’s a jerk. He’s the kind of bully who pushes buttons until an alarm goes off, then backs off with, “Just kidding!!” Until, of course, it turns out he’s definitely not kidding.

Or is he? The trouble with the role and Brill’s performance is that it feels too much a vehicle for an actor’s bag of tricks, with the mercurial mood shifts and pervasive snark seeming less organic to a disturbed character than indulgent of a flamboyant turn. Once Bruno’s apparent heart of darkness is revealed, it just seems further proof of a bratty, nasty-class-clown nature. It’s possible to render that personality type truly creepy, but “Ride” doesn’t quite manage it. While Bruno will make for some impressive clip-reel excerpts for the actor, he doesn’t make for a very good villain over the full narrative haul. He’s more in the realm of a pest.

As a result, the film never becomes as harrowing as it means to. Nor is its sum effect done any favors by ending on a note that feels inconsequential rather than conclusive, or even emotionally satisfying. If we’re meant to think of this “wild ride” as just one more such episode for a diabolical thrill-seeker, the script isn’t ingenious enough to pay off as that kind of gamesmanship.

Nonetheless, all three actors labor to make it work, demonstrating their professional skill sets (Thorne sings, Usher recites Shakespeare) to somewhat admirable effect — even if overall credibility and tension remain elusive. Despite some good use of locations, the film’s smooth-enough aesthetic choices aren’t distinguished enough for “Ride” to transcend psychological or narrative shortcomings as an exercise in pure style.

Film Review: 'Ride

Reviewed online, San Francisco, Sept. 30, 2018. (In LA Film Festival.) Running time: 76 MIN.

Production: An RLJE Films release of a United Pictures presentation in association with The Fyzz Factory, Look to the Sky Films, Mirada Studios, Exile Entertainment. Producers: Sefton Fincham, Tyler Jackson, Keith Kjarval. Executive producers: Levi Sheck, Mike Rowe, Javier Jiminez, Dean Buchanan, Kurt Rauer, Jessie T. Usher, Bella Thorne, David Grace, Wayne Marc Godfrey, Robert Jones.

Crew: Director, writer: Jeremy Ungar. Camera (color, widescreen, HD): Rob C. Givens. Editor: Kayla M. Emter. Music: Paul Haslinger.

With: Jessie T. Usher, Bella Thorne, Will Brill.

More Film

  • Steve James Chicago Story

    Participant Media Partners With Filmmaker Steve James on Documentary 'Chicago Story' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Participant Media is reteaming with Oscar-nominated filmmaker Steve James and his longtime production home, Kartemquin Films, on his latest documentary, “Chicago Story.” Participant Media will finance the project, which will be produced by James and Zak Piper. Participant’s Jeff Skoll and Diane Weyermann will executive produce with Alex Kotlowitz and Gordon Quinn. James, Piper, and [...]

  • 'Metro 2033' Film Project Halted Because

    'Metro 2033' Film Project Halted Because 'A Lot of Things Didn't Work'

    It appears that MGM’s film adaptation of “Metro 2033” is no longer happening because “a lot of things didn’t work,” according to VG24/7. “Metro 2033” is a novel by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. It was also adapted into a series of successful survival horror shooters from video game publisher THQ and developer 4A Games in [...]

  • Jirga

    Film Review: 'Jirga'

    Buried within the closing crawl of writer, director, cinematographer and co-producer Benjamin Gilmour’s unfortunately cryptic but nonetheless fascinating debut film “Jirga” are shout-outs for security, political and cultural liaisons, as well as an Afghan film advisor. These credits speak, however quietly, to the no-doubt-delicate and clearly arduous making of a film that finds a guilt-ridden [...]

  • Fox Names Benjamin Bach Theatrical MD

    Fox Names Benjamin Bach MD for Germany, Replacing Vincent  De La Tour

    Twentieth Century Fox has upped Benjamin Bach to managing director, theatrical, for Austria and Germany. In Germany he takes over from the long-serving Vincent de la Tour who is leaving after 27 years. Bach has been MD of Fox’s operations in Austria since 2012 and he steps into his new, expanded, role immediately. He will [...]

  • Lois Smith

    Wes Anderson's 'The French Dispatch' Adds Lois Smith (EXCLUSIVE)

    Lois Smith has joined the cast of Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch,” Variety has learned. It continues a late-career resurgence for the 88-year-old stage and screen actress. Smith was nominated for a Gotham and Independent Spirit Award for her work in last year’s “Marjorie Prime,” a role that garnered her some of the best reviews [...]

  • Stephan James as Fonny and Brian

    Brian Tyree Henry Breaks Out Big in Jenkins' 'If Beale Street Could Talk'

    The final days of filming writer-director Barry Jenkins’ adaptation of James Baldwin’s “If Beale Street Could Talk” were dedicated to moments that foreshadowed its entire plot: Having run into the recently incarcerated Daniel (Brian Tyree Henry) on the streets of Harlem, the struggling artist Fonny (Stephan James) invites his friend back to his apartment for [...]

  • Dylan O'Brien, Justin Theroux, Angela Bassett,

    Travis Knight on Getting the Call to Direct ‘Bumblebee’: ‘Did You Guys Get The Right Number?’

    “Bumblebee” director Travis Knight admits he couldn’t believe it when Paramount Studios and producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura called him two years ago, asking him to helm the upcoming “Transformers” movie. “My initial question was, ‘Did you guys get the right number?'” Knight joked at Sunday’s premiere of “Bumblebee” at the Chinese Theater in Los Angeles. “You’ve seen [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content