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Western films, from silent to today

Ride with the Devil (1999)

Ride With the Devil (1999) DVD coverJake Roedel (Tobey Maguire) and boyhood friend Jack Bull Chiles (Skeet Ulrich) join up with Confederate guerillas in Civil War Missouri after watching the latter’s father being gunned down by Kansas Jayhawkers.

They’re soldiers in a rag-tag outfit led by Blake John Ambrose. That outfit also includes lady’s man George Clyde (Simon Baker), his black companion Daniel Holt (Jeffrey Wright) and the vicious Pitt Mackeson, who doesn’t trust Roedel because of his German-Dutch background.

Jake, Jack Bull, George and Daniel find themselves wintering near the Evans’ homestead. That’s where they meet recently widowed Sue Lee Sheeley (Jewel), whose husband has been killed fighting for the South. Jack Bull immediately strikes up a romance with the pretty widow.

Then the Union troops strike again, this time killing Evans and burning down his home. Looking for retribution, the quartet of guerillas set off on their trail. In the running fight that follows, Jack Bull is fatally wounded.

Jake and Daniel find a safe haven for Sue Lee, and then return to the fighting. But as they grow closer, they also start to wonder about the cause they’re fighting for and the violence they’re hoping dole out. Both wounded during a battle with Northern forces following the raid on Lawrence, Kansas, they find themselves recuperating on the Brown farm, where Sue Lee now lives with her new baby and where they face the decision of whether to rejoin the fight for what appears to be a lost cause once again.

Review:

Well-done Civil War film. The action scenes are some of the best you’ll find, especially one in which the guerillas are trapped inside a farmhouse and the battle with Union cavalry about the Lawrence raid.

But the real focus here in on the three main characters – Jake Roedel, Daniel Holt and Sue Lee Shelley. Jake turned guerilla out of allegiance to his boyhood friend. His father winds up being killed as a result. His dedication to the cause is questioned by his supposed allies. Eventually, he begins to question how much war he can take.

Daniel rode off to fight with George Clyde because he gave him his freedom. But he finds himself fighting among men who wager the scalps of blacks during poker games and pile up the bodies of all the blacks they can find to kill during the raid on Lawrence. When Clyde dies, so does Daniel’s allegiance to the Southern cause.

Then there’s Sue Lee, who lost one man to the war, fell in love with a second, then lost him as well. Jake dreams of sailing off to a desert island and eating olives once he frees himself of war. She knows better than to dream like that; she’s a single woman with a baby born out of wedlock. But she’s still determined to make a good life for her child – away from the war.

If the film has a flaw, it’s that it drags once the fighting stops and the focus shifts to what comes next for our three leads. Still, it’s far better than average, and Jewel does a far better job than one would expect of a folk singer making her film debut.

Directed by:
Ang Lee

Cast:
Tobey Maguire … Jake Roedel
Skeet Ulrich … Jack Bull Chiles
Jewel … Sue Lee Sheeley
Jeffrey Wright … Daniel Holt
Simon Baker … George Clyde
Jonathan Rhys Meyers … Pitt Mackeson
Jim Caviezel … Black John Ambrose
Tom Guiry … Riley Crawford
Jonathan Brandis … Cave Wyatt
Mark Ruffalo … Alf Bowden
Tom Wilkinson … Orton Brown
Margo Martindale … Wilma Brown
John Ales … William Quantrill
Celia Weston … Mrs. Clark

Runtime: 138 min.

Memorable lines:

Wife of slain storekeeper: “Shoot me too, please.”
Rebel guerilla: “We don’t harm women.”

Jake: “It was a fine finger and I’d rather have it still, but … it was took from me and it’s been et by chickens for sure. I say what is the good side to this amputation and there is one.”
Jack Bull Chiles: “Name it, Jake.”
Jake: “Well, you say one day some Federals catch up to me in a thicket. They would riddle me and hang me and no Southern man would find me for weeks or months and when they did I’d be bad meat pretty well rotted to a glob.”
Jack Bull Chiles: “That’s scientifically accurate, I’m afraid. I’ve seen it.”
Jake: “I’d be a mysterious gob of rot. And people would say, ‘Who was that?’ Then surely someone would look up and say, ‘Why it’s nubbin fingered Jake Roedel.’ Then you could go and tell my father that I was clearly murdered and he wouldn’t be tortured by uncertain wonders.”
Jack Bull Chiles: “And that’s the good of it?”
Jake: “Yes sir, that’s the good.”

Jake, upon learning that Alf Bowden killed his father: “I spared Alf Bowden. You all know it.”
Jack Bull: “You taught him mercy, but he forgot the lesson.”

Sue Lee, on receiving condolences about her husband’s death: “We all suffer. He suffers no more. He was a good husband to me. For three weeks he was a good husband, but he didn’t last.”

Sue Lee: “Mr. Clyde, honestly, I didn’t mean to speak ill of your nigger.”
Clyde: “He’s not my nigger. He’s just a nigger who I trust with my life every day and night. That’s all.”

Jake: “There happens to be a war going on everywhere but between your two ears, you dumb ox.”

Southern guerilla: “We thought this was gonna be a real fight.”
Jake: “It’s just bad-luck citizens finding out how bad bad luck can be.”

Black Jack: “Don’t think you are a good man, Roedel. That thought will spoil you.”

SueLee: “So, do you want to marry me?”
Jake: “Nah. Not too bad.”
Sue Lee: “Good. That’s good news. Cause I wouldn’t marry you for a wagon full of gold.”
Jack: “I bet you wouldn’t.”
Sue Lee: “I wouldn’t marry you even if you weren’t some raunchy little Dutchman with a nubbin’ for a finger.”
Jack: “Fine. That’s damn fine. I wouldn’t want a wife that didn’t know how to keep her place. Anyhow, it’s a proven fact that being you’re man is just bad luck. And I don’t need to marry any of that.”

Sue Lee: “I reckon you and Holt will be (heading) off to get shot by some different folks pretty soon.”

Jake, on marrying Shelly Lee: “”It’s being shoved down my throat. If a thing has got to be shoved, I like to do the shovin’.”

Sue Lee: “Have you ever bedded a woman before?”
Jake: “Girl, I killed 15 men.”
Sue Lee, with a smile. “Come here.”

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