Ride With the Devil/B+,A-
Universal/1999/139/ANA 2.35

      Ang Lee, the director of Sense and SensibilityEat Drink Man Woman and The Ice Storm,  directing a Western set during the American Civil War may seem an unlikely marriage of man and material. The director's sensitive touch has paid dividends on previous films, but a Western needs action. Well, the good news is that Lee directs some beautifully conceived and executed action sequences in Ride with the Devil. The sensitivity has not been abandoned and personal relationships are given a thorough exploration in this interesting, off-beat Western. This well written action drama only suffers from a lack of more action. In part, you miss the action because of how well it's been handled.

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     Toby Maguire, who worked with Lee in The Ice Storm, is a wonderful young actor who invests his characters with innocence and integrity. Jake Roedel, the protagonist of Ride with the Devil, is no exception to the Maguire rule. When Jake is swept up by the forces of war from peer pressure, he becomes part of a renegade band harassing Union troops. While others of the group are  slowly dehumanized, Jake learns more about becoming a man and what sacrifices to make for right and survival.
     Skeet Ulrich is effective as Jake's best friend Jonathan Rhys-Meyers plays Pitt Mackeson, a raider with a dark heart, with a nasty streak that stretches from one side of the Kentucky border to the other. He gives the character a mean streak fueled by a hint of effeminacy. Equally effective is Jewel. She may be overshadowed by some of the acting, but she declares herself a presence of stability and honesty.
    This is an outstanding DVD transfer, with excellent detail throughout. Minor edge enhancement prevents keeps this just short of reference quality. Colors are consistently accurate with a wide range of skin tones. Color depth is equally impressive. The Dolby Digital 5:1 surround is aggressive and detailed, especially during the action sequences. 




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