Ride With The Devil

on November 26, 1999 by Kevin Courrier
   Set during the American Civil War, "Ride With the Devil" is a sweeping drama about Jake (Tobey Maguire), the son of a German immigrant, who is raised in Missouri, and his best friend Jack Bull Chiles (Skeet Ulrich), the son of a plantation owner. When Chiles' family is wiped out by Union marauders, Jake and Jack create their own guerrilla army--"bushwhackers"--to fight them.
   Since director Ang Lee ("Sense and Sensibility," "The Ice Storm") is someone who brings an impersonal type of craftsmanship to his work, "Ride With the Devil" resembles one of those Hallmark Hall of Fame epics which dramatize historical epochs by doing everything in broad strokes. And Lee hands the actors dialogue that is so long in platitudes that it's short in believability. None of it reveals anything remotely interesting about the characters we are watching. It's simply a collection of familiar dull moments from a variety of bad historical dramas.
   "Ride With the Devil" also has no real depth of feeling for the period, even though it is beautifully shot by Frederick Elmes ("Blue Velvet"). One just doesn't get a sense of the way the war tore apart families, as well as the country, and how it affected race relations. "Ride With the Devil" is a long journey to nowhere. Starring Skeet Ulrich, Tobey Maguire, Jewel and Jeffrey Wright. Directed by Alison Maclean. Written by James Schamus. Produced by Ted Hope, Robert F. Colesberry and James Schamus. A USA release. Drama. Rated R for graphic war violence. Running time: 134 min
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