Ride With The Devil

by Brett Schulte on July 26, 2006 · 0 comments

Ride With The Devil
Actors/Actresses
Tobey Maguire….Jake Roedel
Skeet Ulrich….Jack Bull Chiles
James Caviezel….Black John
Jonathan Rhys Meyers….Pitt Mackeson
Simon Baker….George Clyde
Jeffrey Wright….Daniel Holt
Jewel Kilcher….Sue Lee Shelley

Brett’s Movie Collection

IMDB Rating as of 7/25/06: 6.5 My Rating: 8
I was watching an episode of Deadwood (a GREAT show by the way, if you’ve never seen it) the other night on HBO OnDemand, and after it was over I noticed that Ride With the Devil was available as a free OnDemand movie.   Several years ago, a friend who knows about my intense interest in the Civil War suggested this movie to me, so I was curious to see what it was all about.  As you can probably already tell, I greatly enjoyed it.

The story focuses on the guerilla “war within a war” in Missouri, and William Quantrill even makes an appearance.  Tobey Maguire and Skeet Ulrich star as best friends caught up in this fight between neighbors and families.  Jack Bull Chiles (Ulrich’s character) is from a Southern family, but Maguire’s character Jake Roedel is a German whose father is a stauch Union man.  Despite this, “Dutchy” Roedel is determined to fight for the South with his friend.   Throw into the mix George Clyde and his former slave/best friend Daniel Holt, and you have an interesting mix of characters.  The movie chronicles the struggle of these Southern partisans against Federal troops in the vicinity, and director Ang Lee pulls no punches.  The fighting is brutal and oftentimes occurs between men who know each other.  Conflict is not saved for North vs. South either.  “Dutchy” finds himself the target of a suspicious psychopath and bully named Pitt Mackeson, who believes him to be a secret Union sympathizer.  The actions of “Dutchy” and Daniel Holt in the raid on Lawrence, Kansas only serve to deepen this suspicion.

One of the subplots of the movie involves former slave Daniel Holt and his sometimes mistreatment by the Southern men he fights alongside.  It soon becomes clear, however, that this character is not a “Black Confederate”.  He fights for his friend George Clyde, and eventually “Dutchy” as well, as those two characters grow closer together.  “Dutchy” likewise does not seem to be fighting for slavery.  Instead, his goal is to protect the people he knows and loves in his area.  The interesting thing throughout all of this is that there really aren’t any simple “good guys” and “bad guys” in this movie.  As Maguire’s character says at one point, “It ain’t bad and it ain’t good.  It just is.” (Note: The last quote is paraphrased from memory, and so it might not be 100% accurate.)

Of course there is also a romantic angle in the movie between Jewel’s (yes, the singer) character, Jack Bull Childs, and also “Dutchy”, though I do not want to give away how this turns out.  Jewel was a far better actress than I would have believed, though some on the IMDB message boards don’t seem to be very fond of her or of Tobey Maguire for that matter.

All in all, I found this to be a better movie than your average IMDB movie goer.  I think a lot of this has to do with my interest in the Civil War, but I also enjoyed the way Ang Lee pulled no punches.  This is not a movie to show to smaller children, as there is definitely a lot of violence.  However, anyone who wants to see a story of men caught up in a brutal fight where innocent people are slaughtered, most involved lose loved ones, and no one is truly “right” will want to go check this one out.  It is not your typical Hollywood movie.  I’d love to hear the opinions of others on this one if you’ve seen it.


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