A contemporary Western played by non-professional actors and based closely on their real lives, The Rider is heartfelt if perhaps over-reliant on cliché. Brady is one of a group of young men in the American Midwest who ride bucking horses and bulls, risking severe injury and death, in what can be seen at once as both a vital act of keeping tradition alive and a tacit admission that the opportunities offered by America are dwindling and serve to keep people in their place. Mike describes it as “a stupid sport”.
José sees a kinship with American Animals in its portrayal of young American men with no sex lives or apparent interest in sex lives and also part of a long cycle of films that mourn the idea of America, a subject which he was written on extensively in this blog; Mike believes it’s a film that will flatter those who like to pride themselves on seeing “quality” cinema. There are scenes of beauty, including those with a former rider profoundly injured and restricted to life in an assisted living facility – Brady’s love for his friend, expressed throughout the film, is touching. And the horse wrangling is simply spectacular and worth it for its own sake.
A film with deep flaws, an indulgence in cliché, a great visual debt to the Western and a too easy acceptance of its structures of feeling, particularly in a world with so little place for them. Nonetheless, The Rider also has extraordinary sequences with flashes of beauty.
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