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The Last Ride
cast: Dennis Hopper, Will Patton, Fred Ward, Chris Carmack, and Ben DiGregorio

director: Guy Norman Bee

81 minutes (12) 2003
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Universal DVD Region 2 rental and retail
Also available to rent or buy on video

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Alasdair Stuart
Rob Cohen has quietly become the undisputed king of the automobile action movie. The man behind XXX and The Fast And The Furious was responsible for the story of this made-for-TV movie and it shows within the first ten minutes.

Ronnie (Dennis Hopper) is a bank robber who gets out of prison with one thing on his mind: revenge on the corrupt cop who put him there. The only problem is, the cop is now the surrogate father of his son, Aaron Rondell (Will Patton). To make matters worse, Aaron's son Matthew is a tearaway with a fondness for fast cars, just like his grandfather. With Aaron wanting nothing to do with him, it doesn't take long for Ronnie to run into Matthew...

This is high quality TV movie fare, thanks almost entirely to the cast. Hopper is both great and surprisingly restrained as Ronnie Rondell, giving the character a real sense of pathos. There's a lovely moment where he and Matt go to a car show and he finds his old car, the one he was arrested in, on display. He's a man out of time and Hopper never lets us forget that.

It's a testament to how fair-minded the script is that Hopper isn't the centre of the movie. Patton turns in typically intelligent, typically understated work as Aaron, again giving the character a real grounding. He's a desperately principled man who has backed the wrong horse and his gradual realisation of this is beautifully played. Likewise, Chris Carmack, best known as Luke in the first series of The OC, who does good work as Matt Rondell. You believe that he's the son of Patton and the grandson of Hopper, the character neatly embodying the rebelliousness of one and the moral weight of the other. However, the film is nearly stolen by Fred Ward as the splendidly reptilian Dylan. Ward, like Patton, is one of the best and least valued character actors of his age and he turns in great work here, his character evolving from a principled and decent man into a startlingly ruthless villain.

With these four performances at its centre, the film is already on the right track. What keeps it there is a script that combines the conventions of the genre with some genuinely surprising turns. The car chases are well staged and exciting, the stereotypes are played honestly and well and the twists, when they come, are genuinely surprising. Fun, fast moving and surprisingly ruthless, The Last Ride is a cut above the normal TV movie. The car fans will get the most out of it but with four good central performances there's plenty for everyone else here, too.
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