Revenge Ride opens with a flashback of Maggie (Serinda Swan) on a first date that ends with her being raped. Here she was younger, more delicate and naive, the type of girl who wears a dress. Soon after, Maggie joins an all-female biker gang known as Dark Moon, and three years later, she’s still there — but she’s different now. She dons a biker jacket, leather paints, face piercings and has taken up smoking. She’s described as tough and ruthless, but this isn’t necessarily behaviour we see from her. Most of the women in the gang have something in common: sexual assault. They protect their own and other women in their small town.
Ten minutes into the film, we’re already watching another rape unfold. This time it’s Maggie’s cousin, college student Mary (Vanessa Dubasso), who turns to Dark Moon for help afterwards. It took place at a party and involved three men — she cites quarterback Keegan (Jake Lockett) as the main culprit. Under Trigga’s (Pollyanna McIntosh) strict leadership, Dark Moon ride out to deliver revenge. The gang itself are made up of members of a real biker gang and it certainly shows as they look and play the part, but there’s also an underlying sense of connection and realism about them which jumps out.
Revenge Ride provides commentary on all the frat boy rapists that always get away with their crimes, all because they’re seen to have so much potential. The film delivers an alternative reality where Dark Moon enforces their own justice because no one else is going to do it. They don’t get the police involved, likely knowing how useless they are, in addition to how traumatic and frustrating this process can be for victims. The gang head to a bar to scope out the rapists, where they elicit a form of painful and humiliating vengeance, leaving them to wake up in a similar state they left Mary — laying on campus with their ass showing. Not fond of their punishment, the guys seek their own revenge against Dark Moon which is when the real trouble begins.
In an unnecessary side plot, Maggie meets Brian (Diego Boneta) at the bar who becomes her love interest. He’s friends with the three rapists, but swears he had nothing to do with it. Trigga, however, wants him to pay too, because all men are the same to her — she’s a man-hater, more tough and ruthless than Maggie could ever be. The romance elements feel inessential, just there as filler to serve as character conflict between Maggie and Trigga. I’m not sure what the message is supposed to be here, maybe that not all men are guilty or love is more important than friendship?
As with most women-directed rape-revenge films, it gives survivors a way to fight back through the catharsis of being understood and seeing justice being served in some way, even if unconventional. There is one big thing that screws with this message, though, but I won’t spoil it. Either way, the film manages to show that these are real situations that leave huge consequences, especially when people on both sides are left to battle it out amongst themselves.
Revenge Ride has a great concept, but the execution is up and down. It’s a competently made film full of entertainment, gore and violence, but its predictable rape-revenge plot throws some harsh curveballs at the end. There’s plenty of cool scenes where the gang ride out, including a memorable scene of Maggie riding her motorcycle while the song ‘Three Days’ by The Diamond Light plays in the background.
Unfortunately, the film has a thinly veiled plot placed over its muddled message and biker aesthetic. I’d love to see the screenplay strengthened with more blood, violence and rock music utilised in the soundtrack. One of the only things Revenge Ride has going for it is that it serves as a mindless throwback to biker films of the 60s as they watch justice attempt to be served in action-packed sequences. Written by Timothy Durham, it’s not surprising that the plot feels underdeveloped with confusing meanings. Melanie Aitkenhead at least offers a female perspective with her direction, but it’s not enough to fix this underwhelming experience.
Revenge Ride screened at the virtual edition of Grimmfest 2020 between Oct 7th and Oct 11th
by Toni Stanger