Riders (aka Steal, 2002) Movie Review

“Riders”, a movie about four tight-knit thieves (supposedly) under 30 who uses their extreme sports ability to stick it to The Man by robbing them and giving to their retirement fund, does these things wrong:

The thieves are distinctive looking: One is white with spiked blond hair; the other is a woman with wild blonde hair; a third is a big black guy named “Otis”; and the fourth guy is tall, thin, and has a goatee and looks a lot like Tom Green.

Our clever thieves wear masks, but never bothers to keep them on for very long, which means the people they’re robbing invariably will see all of their faces at one point or another.

Our thieves perform about 5 daring heists in the whole movie, all in the same city and a few days apart, and yet no one has ever heard of a police sketch artist and their pictures never appear on TV. Also, they hang out at the same extreme sports place.

Actor Bruce Payne, in a bid to embarrass himself beyond recognition, embarrasses himself beyond recognition as a thickheaded police detective who turns out to be — gasp! — in actuality a bad guy who forces our thieves to do robberies for him. And he seems to have a mouthful of something, because his dialogue sounds like he’s trying to chew and talk at the same time.

Natasha Henstridge plays an ace detective who, after sleeping with Stephen Dorff’s lead thief, discovers by way of a video capturing one of the foursome’s robberies that Dorff’s character was involved. (She notices a tattoo on the back of his neck, not the fact that he and his comrades expose their faces to just about everyone.) But instead of telling her fellow cops or arresting Dorff, Henstridge confronts Dorff and warns him that she’ll “come after him with everything she’s got”, which leaves me to wonder: Gee, Natasha, why didn’t you arrest him now?

Steven Berkoff (“Children of Dune”), in a bid to out-embarrass co-star Bruce Payne, plays a Southern preacher with a pompadour who — gasp! — actually works for a criminal organization as a fixer. And yes, he also goes around using some ungodly Southern accent that only an English writer like Mark Ezra and a French director like Gerard Pires (“Taxi”) could fail to see as a prime example of ignorant foreigners trying to “do American”.

Minus closing credits, “Riders” is 73 minutes long.

All of the above adds up to a stuntman’s “how to” video in the guise of a movie. “Riders” was directed by a Frenchman and co-written by an Englishman. It stars mostly American actors, led by Stephen Dorff (“Blade”) and Natasha Henstridge (“Ghosts of Mars”). On the whole, everyone besides Dorff and the actors playing his 3 comrades-in-arms manages to embarrass themselves. Of course, it doesn’t help that they’re working from a minimal screenplay and the movie itself exists in a strange American city where the cops are called “Metro cops” and there’s never any landmarks of note.

Director Gerard Pires is less interested in making a movie than he is about shooting a series of neato stunts involving inline skates, a lot of police cars crashing into things, semi-trucks doing wheelies, and not one but two armored trucks. The cinematography by Tetsuo Nagata is slick in that MTV music video way. So much of the film has been chopped off that all that remains is brief exposition scenes leading to lengthy stunts where the thieves’ idea of “clever” planning reeks of simplicity and improbability.

The film would probably work best if one were to fast-forward through all of the talky scenes and just watch the stunts. At least this way there would be less time to recognize the futility of such a ridiculous movie.

G’rard Pires (director) / Mark Ezra, G’rard Pires (screenplay)
CAST: Stephen Dorff …. Slim
Natasha Henstridge …. Karen
Bruce Payne …. Jake Macgruder
Steven Berkoff …. Surtayne

Buy Riders on DVD