MRR Movie Review: Roughrider

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In a US-Mexico border town overcome with drug violence, a young, gunslinging skateboarder named Jack must avenge the death of his little sister - killed by a rising drug lord who has only one name, "The King." Starring Sonny Castillo, Tony Bottorff & Da Big Daddy G.
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Movie Review: "Roughrider"

-- Rating: Unrated
Length: 80 minutes
Release Date: March 12, 2012
Directed by: Will Martin
Genre: Action/Adventure

"Roughrider" is a low-budget action/adventure film that was produced without financial backing or other assistance from a major film studio. It was made during 2011 on a budget of about $15,000. Will Martin wrote, directed, and starred in this film. Martin has stated that he decided to play the lead role because he was unable to obtain another actor who could skate and was willing to get beat up for no pay. "Roughrider" did not appear in commercial theaters and was released direct to video on March 12, 2012.

"Roughrider" is an example of what have become known as micro-budget films due to their extremely low budgets. The quality of films in this category can vary greatly, from atrocious to ground-breaking.

Jack Urban (Will Martin) is a young skateboarder whose younger sister Samantha (Carson Goldsmith) is killed by The King (Kelvin Girdy), the leader of a drug cartel. Jack tries to take revenge for her death against The King, street gangs, and corrupt government officials. To accomplish this, he must use his skateboarding skills in a Texas border town filled with concrete ditches and busy streets. In the process, Jack will become a folk hero known as the Roughrider.

This film will quickly surprise viewers who are unaware of its premise. The opening scene shows Jack skateboarding on a street until a man on a dirt bike suddenly begins shooting at him. This scene ends with the death of Jack's assailant in a huge explosion, which sets the tone for the rest of this revenge action film. "Roughrider" is similar to many 1980s films of the same genre, except the protagonists are younger.

Jack's allies in his quest to confront The King include Alek (Seth Barton), Blind (Gabe Shebesta) and Dorothy (Victoria L. Rodriguez). Alek provides weapons for the group, and Blind serves as the comic relief. Dorothy has her own reasons for wanting to foil The King. In addition to The King's street gang, Jack's group is also opposed by a corrupt Homeland Security agent (Tony Bottorff).

The loose plot of "Roughrider" serves primarily as a backdrop for the action sequences, just as you'd expect of a low-budget action film made during the 1980s. The majority of the film shows Jack dispatching villains between snappy one-liners. Kelvin Girdy portrays an over-the-top villain who prefers sharing his plans with his enemies to simply killing them. The main source of enjoyment for the audience will come from the clichés and affectations that are requisite of films in this genre.

The King's minions are textbook B-movie thugs. They usually outnumber Jack and often surprise him, but they lose their chance to kill him due to their poor aim and tendency to talk to him instead of just attacking.

The visual effects and action sequences are extremely well done for a low-budget film. The opening chase sequence is especially effective in convincing the audience that the film cost more to make than it actually did. However, the use of a handheld camera can make scenes with dialogue more difficult to watch. Sometimes, the camera moves in one direction during a scene, and then the film cuts to a scene in which the camera is moving in the opposite direction. This can become confusing for the viewer during rapid scene changes.

Those who view "Roughrider" within the context of its genre will enjoy this film as a source of nostalgic entertainment. Because the film appears to take itself seriously at times, it is difficult to determine whether it is a true homage or a tongue-in-cheek spoof of action films from the 1980s. Either way, the film would not benefit significantly by repairing any flaws in the plot, such as the implausibility of four skateboarding teenagers defeating a drug cartel.

"Roughrider" avoids the most obvious pitfalls of an atrocious micro-budget film and shows that Will Martin may be a director worth watching. For Martin's talent to be analyzed more definitively, he will have to make a film that can be taken at face value. Despite its rough edges, "Roughrider" has enough content under the surface to make viewers wonder what Martin might be capable of with more experience and a larger budget.

Rating 3 out of 5