Texas Rodeo Drama “Ride” Explores Family, Crime, and Healthcare Woes

In “Ride,” director Jake Allyn masterfully intertwines the high-stakes worlds of bull-riding and crime, crafting a suspenseful drama about a Texas rodeo family pushed to extreme measures to pay for their young daughter’s cancer treatment. C.

Thomas Howell and Forrie J. Smith lead a cast that brings incredible authenticity to this gripping story, thanks to their real-life backgrounds in riding and roping.

Howell, known for his iconic roles in “The Outsiders” and “Red Dawn,” brings a wealth of experience and gravitas to his role as John Hawkins, a retired rodeo star and rancher.

At 57, Howell’s rugged presence complements that of Smith, who has decades of rodeo experience and now shines in the popular series “Yellowstone.” Both actors deliver career-highlight performances, grounding the film in a palpable reality.

The film centers on Peter Hawkins, played by Allyn himself, the black sheep of a Texas rodeo family recently released from prison.

Desperate to re-enter the rodeo scene, Peter turns to his long-time dealer Tyler (Patrick Murney) for drugs, promising to repay him with his rodeo winnings. Peter’s triumphant return to bull-riding, however, is overshadowed by a greater personal crisis.

Unbeknownst to Peter, his young sister Virginia (Zia Carlock) is battling cancer and requires an expensive, experimental treatment not covered by insurance. The revelation shocks Peter, who realizes the extent of his family’s struggles.

His father John and mother Monica (Annabeth Gish), the local sheriff, never visited him in prison, preoccupied with Virginia’s care and perhaps harboring their own resentments. Only Peter’s grandfather Al (Smith), a former rodeo champion turned minister, sporadically visited, offering support in his own gruff way.

Driven by a desire to help Virginia and mend family ties, Peter convinces John to join him in a risky plan to steal money hidden in Tyler’s home.

This ill-fated robbery leads to a tense and masterfully crafted sequence when Tyler returns unexpectedly, resulting in dire consequences. Allyn’s direction here is nothing short of gripping, with the suspense evoking shades of Hitchcock.

As the plot unfolds, John and Peter must navigate the fallout of their actions while Monica, unaware of their involvement, investigates the crime. The film deftly balances the tension of the criminal plot with rich character development, portraying the complexities of familial relationships and small-town life.

Gish’s portrayal of Monica, a determined and capable sheriff, adds another layer of authenticity, particularly in scenes where her character’s dual roles as mother and law enforcer collide.

According to Variety, “Ride” also sheds light on the harsh realities of the American healthcare system. The desperation and humiliation faced by families struggling to afford medical care are poignantly depicted, especially in scenes where John frantically tries to secure funds for Virginia’s treatment.

These moments resonate deeply, highlighting a widespread issue that many viewers will recognize.

Amidst the turmoil, Smith’s character Al offers a beacon of hope. His blunt yet inspiring accounts of overcoming addiction and his faith-based ministry provide a counterpoint to the darker elements of the story.

While “Ride” is not strictly a faith-based film, its themes of redemption and perseverance lend it a depth and honesty often lacking in more overtly labeled faith-based movies.

Overall, “Ride” is a well-crafted, emotionally resonant film that captures the grit and heart of a family pushed to its limits. The performances by Howell and Smith are standout, supported by a strong ensemble cast.

Allyn’s direction ensures that even those unfamiliar with rodeo culture can find themselves engrossed in the drama and tension of the story.

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