Revenge Ride


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Revenge Ride
"Revenge Ride has a kind of rough-hewn grace, a purity that's rare in today's cinema."

A subgenre within a subgenre, the all female biker gang movie has a long pedigree but has been curiously absent from our screens in recent years, perhaps because directors haven't known how to handle it. It's frequently exploitative in its attitude to women and sometimes homophobic, though it's also given us some of the best leather dyke characters ever to stride across the screen. In Melanie Aitkenhead's hands, however, it becomes something quite different. The gutsiness and uneasy glamour of 1968 classic She-Devils On Wheels are combined with a distinctly modern sensibility and a more realistic take on women's relationship with violence.

In 2017, Aitkenhead's short Blood Ride followed newcomer Maggie (Serinda Swan) through her decision to join the Dark Moon gang. This film picks the story up a few years later when Maggie is well enough established to start asking for favours. Her young cousin Mary (Vanessa Dubasso) has recently started at college and woken up after a party semi-clad, with an aching head. Given their subsequent behaviour, it's not hard to figure out which guys drugged and raped her. Now she wants revenge. This is something Dark Moon have devoted themselves to. Under the direction of formidable leader Trigga (Pollyanna McIntosh) they hit the road, ready to teach these frat boys a lesson they'll never forget.

There are complications, of course. These particular frat boys don't know when they're beaten, and become determined to turn the situation into a feud. Maggie becomes romantically entangled with an acquaintance of theirs, Brian (Diego Boneta), despite having vowed that she will always put her sisters first. And something about the situation affects Trigga in a deeply personal way, unleashing a fury within her which threatens to consume them all.

Swan strikes a nice balance between the toughness that makes her background believable and the openness needed to give most viewers a way into the story. Boneta plays a nice guy with enough hegemonic baggage to be trouble anyway, not understanding how the world has changed. McIntosh revels in the role of the tortured leader who simmers in the background as she watches others' dramas unfold, eventually boiling over. Although at times she's awesome to watch, she's never romanticised. She's damaged to a degree that's ultimately as dangerous to her as to anyone else.

There's a rough and ready look to this film that has evidently put off some viewers, but it's perfectly in keeping with the traditional aesthetics of the subgenre. It's a film that ought to make viewers uncomfortable, aesthetically as well as thematically. Dark Moon are proud rule breakers but Trigga's romantic choice still seems ill-advised, and provides just one of several hints that it might be a certain kind of machismo, rather than maleness, that does the damage. Aitkenhead draws several parallels between Trigga and the leader of the frat boys, leading us to wonder how much of the difference between them comes down to class and the former's outsider status.

Blunt and unapologetic, Revenge Ride has a kind of rough-hewn grace, a purity that's rare in today's cinema. It's messy like real life but its raw emotion is important. This is what accountability looks like when you take it off social media and onto the streets.

Reviewed on: 13 Oct 2020
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After a young woman is drugged at a party, her cousin's all-female biker gang rides out for revenge.

Director: Melanie Aitkenhead

Writer: Timothy Durham

Starring: Serinda Swan, Diego Boneta, Jake Lockett, Pollyanna Macintosh, Vanessa Dubasso, Reem Kadem

Year: 2020

Runtime: 73 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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