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Easy Rider (1969)

A review by Damian Cannon.
Copyright © Movie Reviews UK 1997

As the archetypal 60's film Easy Rider sets the tone early on when Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper use the money from a drug deal to finance a cross-country bike trip. Representing anti-establishment figures the pair are alternately welcomed and despised as they make their way to the Mardi Gras, all because of their attitudes and clothing. The sweeping shots of Arizona's Monument Valley illustrate just how petty these human quarrels are and, yet, how important it feels to make a statement. With the first half of the film drawing to a close Peter and Dennis spend some time with a commune, mostly populated by city dropouts with no plan for the future either. It is only when the credits roll that we realise just what was lost when they found themselves drawn away from this atmosphere by the lure of the road.

After having been jailed for jumping on the back-end of a small town procession the story receives a spark of inspiration from the entrance of Jack Nicholson. Playing the part of an alcoholic, part-time lawyer Nicholson has similar dreams of New Orleans, only for him the focus is a top-class whorehouse. Still, hitching a ride with our 'easy riders' opens new vistas for Nicholson (most of them chemically fuelled) and his unfortunate untimely departure at the hands of a bunch of rednecks on a midnight visit. As a memorial Peter and Dennis continue onto their destination although they are too physically and emotionally drained to make much use of the brothel. At this point the movie starts to lose its way (reflecting the fact that these were actually the first, script-less, scenes shot) with an extended graveyard acid trip.

After leaving the Mardi Gras the ending comes quickly, in a shocking and brutal fashion. The intentional effect of leaving the viewer unfulfilled with revenge produces an overwhelming numbness and an inability to deal with the events which have come to pass. In summary, a startling film with a timeless soundtrack although be prepared for some padded-out moments.

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