Movie Review: Riding the Bullet (2004)

by StevenHelmer

A review of the 2004 movie based off of a Stephen King story and starring Jonathan Jackson.

Synopsis: A University of Maine student attempts to kill himself in 1969. Shortly after recovering, he learns his mother has suffered a stroke and he decides to skip a concert in Toronto and, instead, starts hitchhiking home so he can see her in the hospital. Along the way, he encounters a number of strange people on the highway and, ultimately, is forced to make a decision about whether his mother should die or if he is willing to die instead.


I saw a small piece of this movie a few days ago when it was on one of our movie channels and thought it looked interesting enough to give it a chance. My wife and I did just that last night and, while it was an OK movie, it wasn’t as good as I thought it was going to be.

I thought the overall premise of this film was an interesting one. The student, Alan (Jackson), encounters a wide range of characters. Some of them mean to do him harm. Others are harmless but his own paranoia (shown as an imaginary doppelganger) catches up to him and causes him not to trust anyone.

And, when he gets in the car driven by the deceased George Staub (Arquette), the film does get a little intense as he is forced to decide between himself and his mom and quietly debates the pros and cons of each decision. Arquette, in particular, is actually surprisingly good in that role.

What hurts this movie, however, is the constant hallucinations and flashbacks. These end up making the film very hard to follow at times because you don’t know if something is actually happening to him, if he’s remembering something from the past or just imagining the whole thing.

In fact, this bouncing aruond starts very early in the film and it does require you to get used to it relatively quickly to avoid being really confused from the start. I know I almost turned the movie off a few minutes into it at a result of that.

Riding the Bullet (Widescreen Edition)

Riding the Bullet is based on, the master of macabre, Stephen King’s first e-book and was directed by Mick Garris (The Stand). Alan embarks on a 100 mile hitch hike to see his m...

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Final Opinion

As I said, the premise is relatively decent. But, while the hallucinations and flashbacks have their place, I do think there are a few too many and the movie just isn’t as good as a result of that. It’s worth watching if you can’t find anything better. However, it’s not a movie I would recommend going out of your way to rent.

My Grade: C

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Updated: 08/07/2015, StevenHelmer
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