Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Riding The Bullet (2004)

Riding The Bullet is yet another movie based on a short story by Stephen King and yet another King adaptation with Mick Garris directing (he's also helmed Sleepwalkers, The Stand, The Shining TV mini-series, Desperation and others). Mick Garris can do okay with strong enough material and I liked his earlier collaborations with King but it seems that, as they've grown more familiar and comfortable with each other, the director has taken on a few of the author's failings. I love the written works of Stephen King but he can't hit a home run every time (who can?) and when he's not on top form his writing is often full of too much superfluous Americana while good ideas are swamped by all of the local colour and insignificant sideroads.

Riding The Bullet was the first story that King ever released online. It seemed to be a success and I enjoyed the story when I read it in standard printed form in Everything's Eventual (a fantasic collection of short stories from someone who really is a master of the form). But it's not a great story and it's not a very lengthy story. It takes about 60 pages or so to tell the tale so making a 90 minute movie out of the thing would seem to be a difficult task. The movie of Riding The Bullet runs for 98 minutes. That kind of tells you everything you need to know right there. Great movies have certainly been made out of shorter stories but Riding The Bullet doesn't even have all that much going on under the literary layers, so to speak, and with the movie not adding too much to the material it all feels like something stretched way beyond breaking point.

This is more of an enjoyable twist on the "ghostly hitch-hiker" tale than anything else as Alan Parker (Jonathan Jackson) heads home to get to his hospitalised mother (Barbara Hershey). On his journey he thinks back to childhood memories (one of them involving his turn to ride on "The Bullet" rollercoaster), talks to himself, encounters some characters that pad out the running time and then takes a lift from someone (David Arquette) that he begins to suspect shouldn't be in any condition to drive a car.

There's just nothing here at all worth noting. Garris scripted the movie from the Stephen King story and either lifts things directly from the source or adds completely pointless material (though a scene near the very beginning with a vision of death and some lively wall decor gave me hope for some impressively imaginative work that subsequently went into hiding for the rest of the movie). The acting is all fine and the soundtrack contains a few decent tunes. But by the time the end credits roll you can't help feeling that you just wasted your time watching something of complete insignificance.

Personally, I'd recommend this as one of the many Stephen King adaptations to avoid but die-hard fans may be better pleased with it than I was. It's doubtful though.

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