Director: Harry Thomason
Stars: Jesse James, Henry Thomas, Kaley Cuoco
Based on the events surrounding Hank Williams’ (Thomas) death, The Last Ride depicts a cross-country journey undertaken by the troubled singer and a naive nineteen year old. During the trip they bond and both rub off on each other.
I’m a huge Hank Williams fan so I had been wanting to check this out ever since I heard about it. As far as I know it only enjoyed a limited release in American and I’m not sure if it ever got released over here. The tagline bills it as a story about Hank Williams but it is and it isn’t. While it is based on that last ride, the character is never called by his real name and the film never really delves into his history that much so much so that it could have been written about a completely fictional character. For someone wanting to learn more about Hank Williams or to see his life brought to screen this is going to be a disappointment because aside from a montage at the end there’s nothing really about his life. I suppose it may lead non-fans to explore more about his life but there’s nothing really in the film to inspire that.
Some people will also be disappointed that none of his versions of his songs are used in the film. They’re all cover versions and I feel that they could have mixed up cover versions and original versions, but perhaps there was some hidden issue with the rights. There is a thematic reason as well, to highlight the legacy and influence he left but it’s undercut by the lack of commitment to Hank Williams. The driver (James) is a naive young man who isn’t interested in music, and throughout the film I was waiting for the revelatory moment where he learned who his passenger was…but that never came. Instead the films is carried by the interactions between the two characters and they do give engaging performances. I liked how it showed one man at the end of his life thinking about his regrets, and the other was beginning to discover the possibilities (even though there was only ten years between them).
So it’s not a bad film but I don’t think it’s really going to land with people. For Hank Williams fans it’s not going to be enough of a biography, and for people who aren’t fans it’s going to be a decent story but barely anything that tells you anything substantial about Williams’ life or his contributions to music. It’s a shame as well because there’s a good story to be told there and he does deserve more recognition than he gets, so hopefully I Saw the Light will prove to be that film. As it is The Last Ride is an okay film with some dodgy special effects (the snow looked especially fake) that’s watchable but it’s a bit of a waste to call it a film about Hank Williams.