Year Released: 2002
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 95 minutes
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This is a really, really good independent film! I just thought I’d slap that in there right out of the gate. Doug Sadler’s “Riders” shows what genuine knowledge of film direction, lighting and sound can do for a no/low budget film shot on DV. Throw some damn good acting into the mix and you have a winner. All these pluses actually excuse the story-line which unfortunately goes awry in act two.
Alex (Bodean Orban) is an A-typical Generation X (or Y or Z….they’re all so similar) teen in nowhere America. She’s bored, disaffected and disapproving of her flaky mom (Jane Beard) who has late night parties beneath the nose of Alex and little sister Sara (Sarah Stusek ). Mom even has strange men stay over afterwards, how considerate! Mom’s most recent house guest Ned (Don Harvey) instantly entrenches himself in the home and acts as if he’s the new dad in town.
Also… Ned is just plain creepy.
Harvey plays Ned brilliantly as we, like Alex, are unsure of just how slimy this guy really is. Although his motives are subtle, Harvey buries them further beneath the surface and builds suspense by holding his cards close to his chest until the time to show them is right. Alex’s somewhat “standard issue” teen character proves useful here as we see Ned through Alex’s eyes. This makes us wonder if she’s just being cynical and bitchy, or if the guy really is as evil as he seems.
That question is answered shockingly and quickly enough launching Alex and Sara on an ill-advised road trip to find their deadbeat dad who was “last seen” in New Orleans. The story slips here and that is the only issue I have with “Riders.” What started as a creepy family drama hits the road and frankly, gets lost. The story just sort of meanders along and stumbles again in a silly scene where Alex is tripping on drugs.
However, “Riders” recovers for a brutal ending that, although provides little closure, still makes the film work as a whole. Writer/Director Sadler never pulls any punches and doesn’t flinch on the payoff.
As I said in the beginning, the professional quality of this film nearly makes you forget it’s done on digital video. My complaint about many DV features is, well they look like crap. Just because you are no budget is no excuse to shoot something poorly lit with bad sound and then wrap it all up and say it’s a tribute to the French New Wave. “Riders” looks great and Don Harvey as Ned is a name to watch for in the future. This film will also make a nice calling card for director Sadler.
Posted on September 16, 2004 in Reviews by Don R. Lewis
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