Let me preface this review by saying, I haven’t read the book. It has Stephen King in the title of the movie, so there must be a book, short story, poem, lyric sheet, or back of a napkin scribbled by the famed scribe on which this movie is based. Oh, or e-book now, which happens to be the case this time.
For starters, I don’t mind when a movie uses old home movies to show the backstory, I really don’t. However I don’t get showing a kid growing up and older, including his father’s funeral. Who brings a camcorder to a funeral? As a matter of fact, the entire movie is told in these camcorder shots.
I should also warn you, if you’re not the lead in this movie, you will get hit by a vehicle.
Anyway, Riding the Bullet tells the story of pessimistic Alan (Jackson), who manages to turn every situation into a downer, including talking to himself. His girlfriend, Jessie (Christensen) sets him up for a surprise party on his birthday and interrupts his suicide attempt. Already fascinated with death, that leads to Alan hitchhiking 100 miles to see his mom in the hospital
The movie is set in 1969, but the lead actors come across as Gen-X twenty-somethings due to their delivery and the script. As a musician, I have to positively crap on the script where one supporting actor actually ponders what the future will be like when (IN ORDER) Lennon, Hendrix, Janis and Jim Morrison grow old and fat. To grab those names and only those names represents complete apathy or stupidity on behalf of the writers. There’s also a Cheech and Chong reference, despite the fact that their first movie aired in 1978. Even if the entire movie was a flashback, to write it in this manner just dumbs down the entire thing.
The soundtrack is pretty good, but the obvious omission of NWA’s 100 Miles and Runnin’ is a glaring error.
There are too many shots that should be in music videos, and too few cheap scares (loud phones, sudden cars driving by, etc.). As a matter of fact, when dipping into being a horror movie instead of a psychological trip, the movie is actually much weaker. It seems that many of the scares are in the movie out of some obscure necessity to scare people, leading to an unconvincing delivery.
The good news in this movie is that David Arquette is dead. The bad news is that he has speaking lines anyway. It pains me to say it, but he’s actually good in this movie, despite turning into Elvis over 20 minutes in. The best thing about the movie is Barbara Hershey, as Alan’s mom, who manages to appear several different ages and is enhanced by great makeup and lighting.
The movie continually hints at clues and then reveals them slowly and openly, just to completely insult the intelligence of the viewers. Between some of the passing imagery that is just strange, and the borderline tap-dancing from reality to creepy dreams, to the absolute reliance on its lead actor, Riding the Bullet shares similar traits with Donnie Darko. Unfortunately, Bullet doesn’t deliver as well. It could have been saved by a slam dunk ending, but instead, just fizzles out into an obscure life lesson.
Relying too heavily on stereotypical characters and scares, Bullet rides more like a Hyundai with a blown head gasket than a roller coaster.