Ride With The Devil
**.5 GM
Starring: Tobey Maguire, Jewel, Skeet Ulrich, Jeffrey Wright, Simon Baker, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Jim Caviezel


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Tobey Maguire is odd. First of all, his name is Tobey, which is probably THE dorkiest name since 'Rufus.' Secondly, he's a little pipsqueaky kinda guy with a constantly pubescent voice, as evidenced by his performance in "Pleasantville." I never would have thought him capable of playing a relative bad-ass, but he manages to pull it off in this film.

Maguire (never to be referred to as Tobey again) plays Jake Roedel (now THAT's a cool name), a young Southern son of a German living in Missourah during the Civil War. His best friend is Jack Bull Chiles (names don't come cooler'n that!) who's played by Skeet Ulrich (um.. Skeet, this is my cousin, Frisbee Jehosephat. Frisbee, Skeet. Skeet, Frisbee.), who's papa gets killed in a massacre by Northern Jayhawkers... so the two of them become Southern Bushwhackers out of a spirit of vengeance and a misguided need to fight for their home and way of life. Being in Missourah, the Confederate patriotism isn't quite as blind and powerful within them... they're mainly fighting cuz them Union bastards done killed Jack Bull's pappy.

So they fall in with a gang of roughnecks, including a suave sucker named George (Simon Baker), his loyal childhood pal and former slave Holt (Jeffrey Wright), a snoogans-esque punk named Pitt Mackeson (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) and the blindly hating Black John (John Caviezel), among many others. After fighting alongside these rogues for years, Jake and Holt are still, in many minds, just the Dutchie and George's slave. When they disperse and seek shelter for the winter on a sympathetic family's property, they spend a lot of cold nights in a wooden bunker, visited by a perky widow by name o' Sue Lee Shelley (Jewel), whom Jack Bull done knocks up. Then they'all gots ta hide Miz Shelley away where them dadblasted Jayhawks can't get 'em.

The performances are all pretty good. I was happy with them. Maguire managed to convince me that he could be a tough guy... and part of the point of the film was that these young kids had committed unbelievable acts of brutality out of necessity... but are still young kids that don't really know what they're doing just yet. I was expecting to have to tear Jewel a couple o' new ones, but she seemed surprisingly relaxed and natural... a little iffy in some places, but for a first-timer, I think I've got a bag full of 'props' around here somewhere... think I should give her some.

The movie seemed a little unfocused and meandering at some points, but it was telling a story you don't see very often - the Civil War from the point of view of those not in the 'regular' army... but those on the outskirts of it, and how it divided everybody, regardless of family lines. The whole film is summed up in one of the last lines: "It ain't wrong and it ain't right. It just is." It's an interesting sentiment... but if that's the moral, one might wonder if there's really any point in telling the story in the first place.

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