Why, oh, why? That is sometimes the question…
Like with this movie, The Last Ride. There’s a definite “why?” in here somewhere. Now, Dennis Hopper was one of those actors who could literally blow you straight out of the room when he was on, and there was a good script to back him up and he was being used wisely. Sometimes, though, even actors have to eat. And that’s where movies like this one come in.
Young Matthew Rondell (Chris Carmack) seems to have inherited his love for cars and racing from his grandfather Ronnie Purnell (Dennis Hopper). Ronnie is just about to get out of prison after having served a 30-year sentence for robbery. The sheriff, Darryl Kurtz (Fred Ward), has taken a personal interest in Ronnie’s affairs, even to the point that he took in his son Aron (Will Patton) and raised him as his own. Now everything is about to come to a head as Ronnie gets out of jail.
The movie tries to span three generations: the wild and reckless ’60s outlaw with a social agenda and a heart of gold, represented by Ronnie; the staid and law-abiding Aron; and the disaffected youth, Matthew. Ronnie’s Robin Hood/Bonnie-and-Clyde thing, stealing money meant for soldiers’ wages, was meant as an anti-war protest. There’s a revenge theme as well since Ronnie’s wife was shot when he was arrested.
The disaffected youth represented by Matthew doesn’t agree with his father’s view on Ronnie’s life and they also share a love of cars, which explains the opening sequence that looks like something out of The Fast and the Furious. Cars matter here. Ronnie’s 1969 Pontiac GTO is a character all its own and there is a little too much caressingly slow camera gliding along bumpers and stick shifts for my taste.
Matthew has issues with his father, Aron, and Aron has issues with his father, Ronnie. Sheriff Kurtz (Fred Ward) has issues with everything. He’s very clearly a bad guy, but that doesn’t seem to register with Aron until it’s pretty late in the game. Sound confusing? Yeah, well, this is what happens when you don’t really have a main focus to what you’re doing. Instead of being a bit of everything, trying to please everyone, this movie doesn’t really please anyone. The cast gives it its best, but having an actor like Dennis Hopper and using him like this is a waste. There are moments, little glimmering nuggets, but they don’t really get a chance to shine and that’s just too bad.
This is a made-for-TV movie and if you’re having popcorn on the couch it’s probably not going to merit you actually throwing your popcorn at the TV. Still, it’s bland and that’s too bad, all things considered.
Most movies have a derivative strain, there’s no escaping that. But, there is a difference between paying homage and cobbling together a new plot from several old familiar ones. Clichés are fine, they are a part of the attraction most of the time, but there still needs to be something more to it.
There are alternatives to this that will ensure you have a good time. I recommend you watch Bonnie and Clyde (1967), Running on Empty (1988) or even The Fast and the Furious (2001) if car porn is your thing.
The Last Ride (2004), directed by Guy Norman Bee, stars Dennis Hopper (Ronnie Purnell), Will Patton (Aaron Purnell), Fred Ward (Darryl Kurtz), Chris Carmack (Matthew Rondell), Nadine Velazquez (JJ Cruz), and Peter Onorati (Burt Walling).