Directed by: #ElginCahill
Director Elgin Cahill presents a grim contemporary thriller in Ryde or Die, taking advantage of a modern setting by focusing on an Ube-, err, I mean ‘Ryde’ driver named Zacharias. Picking up a bizarre, Faustian passenger near the end of his shift, Zacharias soon finds himself in the middle of a Lynchian nightmare, where the value of human life is placed in tandem with the consequence of sin.
Ryde or Die successfully crafts a bleak reality amidst an endless night of bright lights, juxtaposed with atrocious acts by the worst of humanity. The cinematography is impressive, showcasing wide aerial shots of the lambent city that emphasise how small the players of this macabre game are. Indeed, the futility of life and human goodness are core elements of the script, which is mostly solid. Though there are a few bits of dialogue that could’ve been trimmed (and one line that is seemingly ripped straight from Breaking Bad), the long monologues about the nature of human interaction are written with class and depressing realism.
The pacing works to build suspense gradually, but not so slowly that the action becomes dull. The effective tension comes in part from the stellar performance of Joe Bocian as Thomas, who is a terrifying highlight. His demonic energy is unsettling yet irresistible, and he utterly steals the show. Unfortunately, acting of this quality exposes weaker performances such as co-lead, Copeland. While clearly trying his best, there is little sincerity in his portrayal of Zacharias, especially in the most intense interactions. Zacharias acts as the audience’s avatar in this night of madness, but regrettably, Copeland’s wooden reactions ultimately leave a void of alignment or empathy for our protagonist. The wider supporting cast range from stiff and emotionless to over the top and silly, both of which harm the believability of the script.
On a more positive note, the soundtrack is largely efficient and synergises with the film’s neo-noir vibe. The pulsating bass accompanying wide shots of the city leads to a fantastic opening that clearly had care put into it. One bizarre element, however, comes during the film’s climax, which, veering away from spoilers, shifts from intimidating to horrifically sad, with a score that doesn’t hit the mark. The music chosen is jarring and clashes with the scene, which is both surprising and frustrating considering the brilliance of the musical choices for most of the picture.
Also worthy of praise are some of the technical practises employed. The editing may be basic, but it’s serviceable to the story being told. The lighting choices are where things get interesting. The use of electric blues and greens reflected onto the monstrous face of Thomas work to support the performance and make him even more unnerving and intimidating. These techniques support the film’s thematic commentary of the futility of doing good and the subjectivity of sin, delivered through the strong script. All of these elements combine to make a nightmarish world not dissimilar to the one crafted by David Lynch in Lost Highway. Yet Ryde or Die crucially retains its own identity, keeping things more grounded in a grittier reality. Regrettably weaker are the visual effects. Stock sound effects and poor body horror make some of the most extreme scenes more laughable than horrifying, which is a shame.
Overall, Ryde or Die is a mixed bag that’s still worth a look. The worldbuilding and script are well executed, and the tension crafted is legitimate and formidable. Where the film falls down is disappointingly with most of the performances bar an exceptional lead showing by Joe Bocian. The themes and commentary are well delivered despite being far from subtle, and the grim tone remains mostly intact throughout. This ride might not be perfect, but it’s certainly not in the pits.