Meredith Danluck's The
Ride, the latest production from Vice Films, captures the spectacle
of modern bull riding while revealing a slice of small town Americana
that is quickly fading away.
riding was once the exclusive domain of rodeos. Now, busting bulls is a
pro sport with its own league. Professional Bull Riders (PBR) is like
the NASCAR circuit for dudes who ride bulls. PBR tours large stadiums
across the United States and Mexico with a fleet of 18 wheelers. Each
show is huge spectacle in which bull riders are presented like
rock stars. They emerge from elevated stages in a sea of laser
lights and smoke to the cheers of adoring fans. The bull rides only last
a few seconds, but the stakes are high with a $1 million prize for the
winner of the year's best rider.
The Ride follows the 2008 PBR tour, and uses the
long build-up to the championship event as a narrative arc. The film weaves in interviews and
footage of various personalities behind involved in the sport. Many
of the PBR personalities are from small towns in the Southern and
Western United States. They tend to identify with small town values and a
slower lifestyle than that experienced in bigger cities. Like any other
sport, professional bull riding uses these elements to push a certain
image to their audience. Meredith Danluck's intimate approach, which
allows her to capture interesting unguarded moments, captures the
reality of the sport and the people, warts and all.
Technically, The Ride is really slick. This is obvious from the very beginning: principle players are introduced in a rapid-fire opening sequence set to
music by alt-country band The Weight, who provide the soundtrack. The
wide-screen HD cinematography perfectly captures both the visually dense stadium events and the serene natural landscapes.
In sum, The
Ride is yet another quality production from Vice Films, who are
proving to be a reliable source of quality documentaries.