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December 13, 1999 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 1999-12-13

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8A - The Michigan Daily - Monday, December 13, 1999

ee falters in sade durg

'Ride'

By Ed Sholinsky
Daily Film Editor
Take a great director (Ang Lee) and
a great screenwriter (James Schamus)
who have worked well together in the
past ("The Ice Storm"), give them a
large budget and a big concept and
what do you have? In the case of

Ride with
the Devil
Opens at the Michigan
Theater Dec. 17
script is silly andl
action scene.

"Ride with the
Devil" a big
h e a p i n g,
mediocre mess.
Not only does
"Ride with the
Devil" lack that
certain some-
thing that makes
a movie great -
and in this case
good - but it's
flawed at its fun-
damentals. "Ride
with the Devil" is
miscast, the
Lee can't direct an

miscasts the usually excellent Tobev
Maguire so that he looks confused
most of the film and does'it know
what he's supposed to be doing. Since
he's playing a character whose dia-
logue and actions suggest great con-
viction the performance should por-
tray this. Maguire's characteristic
awkwardness, which has worked to
great effect in "The Ice Storm" and
"Pleasantville," prevents him from
really bringing his performance to
fruition here.
Lee would have done well not only
to recast the film, but also to have
studied the westerns of John Ford and
Sam Peckinpah, among others, to have
gotten some idea how to handle the
scope, of "Ride with the Devil." The
story is of the Civil War and the peo-
ple living in Missouri and Kansas.
Since the Confederate army has not
sent troops into the frontier, a group of
Southerners get together to fight off
"Yankee aggressors" - "Jayhawkers"
- and Union soldiers and form rough
and tumble "Bushwacker" units.
These Bushwackers fight a guerrilla
war against Northern sympathizers
and soldiers in an attempt to regain
their homes.

The story focuses around two pair
of men who come together and form
one such Bushwacker unit. Jack Bull
Chiles (Ulrich), a rich Southern gzen-
tleman, and Jake "Dutchie" Roedel,
the poor son of a German immigrant
who associates himself with the
South, are life-long friends when the
join up and meet George Clyde
(Simon Baker) and Daniel Holt
(Jeffrey Wright). Clyde is a rich
landowner and olt is his former slave
and also lif'-lon friend. This is the
most interesting relationship in the
film and almost salvages "Ride with
the Devil,~ largely for Wright's tour-
de-force performance - easily the
best thing about the film.
During the winter the men are laid
up at a plantation after many hard
months of battling Northern-sympa-
thizers and looting villages. During
this brief hiatus they meet Sue Lee
Shelley (Jewel), a Confederate widow
and Chiles' love interest.
The story takes off from there,
examining relationships and sending
the men into deadly battle. Over the
course of the film loyalties change,
people die and new relationships
emerge. The problem is that there is

no chemistry between the actors.
Wright is the only one who can muster
up the acting chops to really imply any
sort of feelings between the charac-
ters.
The usually wonderful Lee, who has
brought so many books to life on
screen ("The Ice Storm," "Sense and
Sensibility"), fails to generate any
interest in his film. At two hours plus,
the film is a bore and has a profound-
ly somnambulistic affect. The story
itself is interesting, but between Lee's
inability to handle the necessary
action scenes combined with
Schamus' trite and terrible dialogue
make "Ride with the Devil" unengag-
ing and at times unbearable.
It's a shame when a director like
Lee who has been so good in the past
flops when he is finally in the spot-
light. Lee has proven himself one of
the most capable directors of the
decade with work ranging from "The
Wedding Banquet" to "The Ice
Storm;" turning his precise eye from
Taiwan to Victorian England to the
United States, past and present. This
slip up shouldn't mark Lee's career,
however, and he'll more than likely
bounce back with his next film.

L.,.

ow i

Lee relies not only on the poor
man's Johnny Depp Skeet Ulrich, but
also on untested musician Jewel (no,
I'm not kidding) to carry much of the
weight of the film. Additionally, Lee

Courtesy ofUSA Flms
Skeet Ulrich hopes Jewel can save his soul in Ang Lee's "Ride with the Devil."

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