Monday, 28 March 2016

Tough Rider

With the fall of the Hollywood Studio System in the late 1950's and early 1960's, there was a new era beginning in American filmmaking as studios struggled to adapt to a changing world. They started by making big-budget epics like Cleopatra that nearly bankrupted them. The 70's saw the beginning of the "New Hollywood," a brief period in which a series of low-budget films emerged that were noticeably darker in tone than those of the Studio Era, and would ultimately go on to set the stage for the modern blockbuster. One such film in this period was Easy Rider, a film which served to usher in the New Hollywood, despite being an awful film. This was a bad movie, with nothing worth seeing.

Wyatt (Peter Fonda) and Billy (Dennis Hopper) are a pair of bikers who don't really do much other than ride on their motorcycles, have sex, and get high. They have somehow put together some money from buying drugs (which Wyatt very intelligently keeps in his gas tank) and want to go to New Orleans in time for Mardi Gras before they retire wealthy. They ride around, get high on marijuana, meet some people once in a while, get high on marijuana, ride around, get high on marijuana, ride around, and get high on marijuana. Did I mention that they spend a lot of the film smoking marijuana? Anyway, they make a few friends but most people apparently hate them so eventually some rednecks show up out of nowhere and fire a shotgun at them.

I really wanted to like Easy Rider. I really did. Unfortunately, this movie is dull and repetitive. Most of it feels more like the "plot" was just an excuse to show off the desert landscapes they filmed in, which I was unable to enjoy because the rest of the film was so boring. There are a variety of far better movies you could be watching if you just want to see that, or you could just use Google to look up photographs of those same landscapes or go there yourself. Most of the film basically amounts to Billy and Wyatt driving on the road while 70's pop music plays over top, with the occasional stop to get high on marijuana. The direction is terrible, the script is weak, and the editing is really, really bad, to the point where it can easily be very difficult to watch.

Wyatt and Billy have absolutely no depth or personality to them worthwhile protagonists. The intention appears to be that they go through some kind of emotional development but their personalities amount to riding, smoking marijuana (and any other drugs they can get their hands on, apparently), and occasionally giving someone a lift. That is literally the extent of everything they do in the film. Apparently there is supposed to be some prejudice involved towards them, but it is hard to relate to that aspect of the film when there is absolutely no emotional link towards them. The rest of the cast is hardly any better. Most of them amount to minor roles who are treated as being important at first but are forgotten about as soon as their role in the story is finished.

So basically, don't bother with Easy Rider. It is a dull and boring film with absolutely nothing worth watching beyond possibly the historical significance of its influence. How did this film make such an impact when it came out? It is an awful and ridiculous film that makes absolutely no sense. As far as biker films go, there are far better options you could be watching. If you want to see desert landscapes, try watching a western instead. This film is a waste of time. It is boring, dull, frustrating, and in general just very poorly thought out.


  1. Yeah this is a film of its time. It appealed to folks because it wasn't like anything they had seen before, and offered something that Hollywood wasn't interested in portraying.

    That said, yeah it doesn't hold up well at all. Some movies are like that. And if you talk to folks who were the right age at the right time the movie has a ton of meaning for them. But for the rest of us, yeah there just isn't much there.

  2. Yeah, it worked at the time. But I agree with Mr. Hitchcock that it is a crap movie. When I re-saw it a few years ago, I realized how pointless and dull this film is. But when it was first released, it was like the first expression of the counter-culture in/by the culture without criticism or admonishment.
    But, Mr. Hitchcock, it's hard for Wyatt and Billy to be "driving on the road while 70's pop music plays over top" when the film was released in 1969. Not a lot of 70's music was heard at that time.
    Thanks for your review.