Ryde (2017) – Film Review
Director: Brian Frank Visciglia
Cast: David Wachs, Jessica Serfaty, Ronnie Alvarez
by Ashleigh Millman
We’ve all sat in the back of a taxi, an Uber, or in this case a ‘Ryde’, and wondered if who we’ve decided to trust to drive us safely to our destination is actually going to do that. Director Visciglia plays with this fear of the unknown, the stranger-danger we have drilled into us from infancy – but unfortunately, fails to provide a driving force behind it.
Ryde is a good looking film. It borrows from plenty of movies that utilise the slick and stylish LA cityscape as a backdrop for something darker brooding underneath the surface. Whilst not particularly original in its presentation, the flashing nightlife and car window shots lend themselves to creating a certain tone, and it’s one that is maintained throughout.
The narrative follows Paul (David Wachs) as he goes on a killing spree throughout the city, targeting predominantly young women out on the town. Murdering a ‘Ryde’ driver and taking his place, he utilises his position of power to beat the life out of anyone unfortunate enough to take a ride in his car. It seems like a good enough premise for a horror film – except that’s literally everything there is to the plot. It’s alarmingly thin, with no explanation of why he might be decapitating, stabbing, and punching his way around LA.
There are some hints at something interesting throughout, though. Paul’s affinity for women and the intense, face-on shots of his violence towards them lean towards a comment on sexuality and gender that is never quite fully realised. Equally, the victims he chooses are generally represented as promiscuous, rude, or with unsavoury personalities, but then his choice of Jasmine (Jessica Serfaty) undermines this pattern as we sympathise with the kind-hearted soul that is abused by her boyfriend.
Perhaps it is a reflection on women as a whole, and Jasmine fits his kill-list for her inability to stand up to her partner in some sick portrayal of how women are never free of judgement – an insightful representation of victim shaming. I’m clutching at straws, as in reality, no rhyme or reason comes to light in the entirety of the run time, and there’s only so many times you can watch someone get their nose broken before it gets a little boring. The deaths are repetitive, the driving is drawn out, and Paul’s pouting American Psycho knock-off is just better off left behind closed doors.
Also who the hell can punch someone’s head clean off their shoulders?
Ryde can get away for so long on being pretty to look at, and the intensity of Paul’s beatings are impressively harsh. But it’s attempts at becoming something more profound are lost in favour of more meaningless, mildly gory death scenes. Even on an aesthetic level, a lot of the actresses look very similar, which can confuse the minimal amount of plot even further.
Overall, Ryde reaches for a level it isn’t going to achieve in an hour and twenty minutes. It instead falls headfirst into the category of horror films that try much too hard, attempting to offer something more than a plot strung together by violent acts, when they essentially are a plot strung together by violent acts.
If it accepted what it was and had a little fun with the premise of an Uber driver gone rouge on his rude customers, it could at least be entertaining in some sense of the word. Instead, it’s a disjointed and confusing journey around city nightlife, with as little to say as its enigmatic, motiveless, and plain boring main character.
‘Ryde’ is available to watch on Digital Download now