Plot: James (Jessie T. Usher) is chasing his dream of being an actor and has even landed some solid work, but he still needs to make ends meet, so he earns some cash as a ride share driver. He has had success in the field, as he is likable and enjoys getting to know his clients a little, but he finds himself really connecting with his latest passenger, a young woman named Jessica (Bella Thorne). The two flirt back and forth, then she invites him to join her and some friends at a bar, but a new ride comes in, so he has to pass. But his new pickup Bruno (Will Brill) is an eclectic, free spirited type who after some unusual travel, convinces James to return to the bar and see if the connection with Jessica was real. Bruno even offers him a sizable tip and to drive the couple around, so James and Jessica are soon on a first date of sorts, with Bruno behind the wheel and full of ideas. But when his suggestions begin to take a darker turn, it becomes clear Bruno has a twisted agenda of his own.
Entertainment Value: This ride share thriller takes a while to shift into gear, but I think it is more than watchable and of course, being a Bella Thorne fan helped me appreciate this more than most. The narrative is slow and a little too drawn out, but explores the two sides of befriending strangers met through ride shares, a relevant and interesting premise. There’s a light, brisk romance slant at first, as James and Jessica spark up a little connection, but then Bruno comes along and his nervous presence warps the vibe, then takes it to much darker place. The movie unfolds inside James’ car for most of the duration, so there’s a cramped atmosphere and not much variety in locale, though a few scenes allow the characters to wander a touch. This puts the emphasis on performance, character development, and dialogue, since Ride’s claustrophobic setting means those are the weapons of choice here. So that means a lot of conversation and less action, but the slow build does add to the atmosphere and creepiness, while allowing Bruno’s true colors to shine through. Once the movie hits its stride, things get much more kinetic and engaging, as well as a little surreal toward the finale, so the gradual build does pay dividends. But Ride also takes so long to get there, it risks the viewer checking out and not being as reeled in once the final march begins. I still had fun with this one, though I think Thorne fans will be most interested here.
This movie has a small cast, as three performers are the core of the narrative and no one else really has a prominent part in the picture. So with a cast this small, no one can be a weak link and while the performances here aren’t award level stuff, I think the three leads come through well enough. Bella Thorne will likely be the reason most people check into the movie and she does have a lot of screen time, so fans of her work will be pleased in that respect. She is allowed to let her natural charisma shine through, but she is a little more restrained than usual, so this isn’t a wild child kind of role. She handles the more down to earth, but still fun character well however, so she is fun to watch and adds a lot to the movie. Assuming you’re a fan, that is. Will Brill is a highlight as well, bringing just enough of a slow burn style creep to his role, then unleashing some really unhinged moments. He skirts the line with over the top melodrama, but keeps things reeled in just enough, I think. Not that I would have minded, since I love outlandish performances, but his effort here helps keep the overall tone on the serious side. The final lead is Jessie T. Usher and while he is passable, he has the least to do and doesn’t have much presence on screen. He is adequate, but gets outshined by his costars in most scenes.
The Disc: RLJE Films gives us Ride on Blu-ray, with a razor sharp presentation that looks as good as you’d expect from such a new release. The colors are natural, but spike into vivid hues when needed and the film’s visual design is one of the strongest elements here, so that is great news. I found the detail level to be rock solid and the movie looks great overall, a terrific treatment. The sole extra here is a worthwhile one, as we have the original short film Ride was based on.