Movie reviews: 'The Edge of Heaven' spellbinding; 'Hell Ride' laughably bad

  • Article by: COLIN COVERT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 7, 2008 - 4:00 PM

Don't waste your time with 'Hell Ride' when your time would be better spent with 'The Edge of Heaven'

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"The Edge of Heaven"

THE EDGE OF HEAVEN

3 1/2 out of four stars. Unrated, but includes sexual situations, strong language, violence. Theater: Lagoon

Loneliness, loss and capricious love guide the fortunes of three families in this powerful, beautifully realized drama by German-Turkish writer/director Fatih Akin. His clockwork plot brings the characters together in surprising configurations or separates them in frustrating near-misses, deprived of relationships that would allow them to complete the puzzle of their lives.

The thoughtful, soul-deep story is told in three chapters. Ali (Tuncel Kurtiz), a lonely retiree in Bremen, persuades Yeter (Nursel Kose) to give up prostitution and live with him instead. The arrangement ends unhappily, and Ali's son Nejat (Baki Davrak), a professor of German at the local college, is so distressed by the turn of events that he moves to Istanbul to locate Yeter's long-lost daughter Ayten (Nurgul Yesilcay).

Nejat is unaware that Ayten, an antigovernment radical, has fled to Germany, seeking political asylum and her mother. Unable to accomplish those goals, the young dissident enters a significant relationship with German student Lotte (Patrycia Ziolkowska). Lotte's wise, blunt mother (Hanna Schygulla) disapproves of their liaison, and when events bring the pair to Istanbul, she eventually follows. The divergent strands of the story meet once again in Turkey in poetically just ways that the characters don't realize, but that fit Akin's elegantly tragic scheme. Even in the face of death and grief, he demonstrates that the gulfs between generations and cultures can be bridged.


HELL RIDE

1 out of four stars. Rated: R for strong violence, sexual content, graphic nudity, language, drug use. Theaters: Block E, Brooklyn Center

"Hell Ride" marks the throttle-revving big-screen return of Larry Bishop, whom you may remember as a star of such motorcycle gang melodramas as "The Savage Seven," "The Devil's 8" and "Chrome and Hot Leather." Don't recall them? Quentin Tarantino does, and he's fond enough of those 40-year-old trashfests to serve as executive producer on Bishop's comeback.

As the film's triple-threat writer/director/star, Bishop isn't noticeably talented. He writes laughable mock-macho dialogue, growls his lines like he gargles with Drano and slaps shots together without regard for logic or continuity. But he's shameless enough in his appreciation for the three Bs of the genre -- bikes, beer and booty - that the movie achieves an almost enjoyable level of badness.

Almost.

Bishop -- the son of Rat Pack comedian Joey Bishop and about equally talented as an actor -- plays Pistolero, president of the Victors motorcycle gang. His right-hand man, the Gent (Michael Madsen, clearly having a good time), and protégé Comanche (Eric Balfour) may be disloyal, and his old enemies, brainy Deuce (David Carradine) and brawny Billy Wings (Vinnie Jones), are definitely gunning for him. Well, shooting compressed-air arrows at him, anyway. With its pistol-grip crossbows, flick-knives and old-fangled spaghetti western six-shooters, "Hell Ride" has the most eccentric armory in years.

When Bishop stares down his adversaries in numerous gun-waving faceoffs, he really stares, popping his eyes like Ping-Pong balls. Some viewers may have the same reaction to the film's scenes of topless oil wrestling, in-your-face throat slittings and rampant female nudity. The film is deliberately skuzzy in the manner of drive-in epics, but Bishop (who did a terrific cameo as a profane strip-joint manager in "Kill Bill Vol. II") never brings Tarantino's sharp wit to the proceedings. Without that sparky intelligence, "Hell Ride" remains a checklist of biker-movie clichés -- not, as Madsen's poetically inclined Gent puts it, "a whopper of a chopper opera."


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