I will start this review by stating that I am a huge Hank Williams Sr. fan and I like old-school country music. So please know these two facts as you read on.
The film, The Last Ride, is the partly truthful story of Hank Williams Sr.’s last trip before he died on January 1, 1953. The film stars Henry Thomas as Hank Williams, although in the film, that is only alluded to. For the entire picture no one speaks the name of Hank Williams and he is only referred to as Mr. Wells, one of a few aliases that Williams used. Jesse James co-stars as Silas, the naive young man hired to be Hank Williams’ driver for the trip. Fred Dalton Thompson of Law and Order fame appears as Williams manager O’Keefe, while Kaley Cuoco of The Big Bang Theory appears as Wanda, a pretty young thing who Silas and Mr. Wells encounter along the way.
Silas is a young mechanic working at a local gas station in Alabama when he encounters a man who hires him to drive a man to and from appointments in neighboring states. Although, Silas has never been a driver, he takes the job and embarks on a journey that will change him forever. Though he is not familiar with his passenger Mr Wells, Silas begins to see that it is not just any man he is driving.
This film was just not good. The dialogue was too easy and cliched at times. In fact at one point, the writers have O’Keefe utter the phrase, “I’m getting too old for this,” and the plot although based some in fact, was overly predictable. I’m sure a pitch meeting happened where somebody said, “It’s a film about an unlikely friendship that forms between two men who are forced to travel together.” And that in fact is indeed what happens, but you see it coming from a mile away. As an audience member, you already know that Mr. Wells is going to die, but the journey along the way was just not compelling enough to make an almost two-hour movie about. To add to this, Sials never figures out or gets told who he is driving and never asks, even though as they travel, people continue to make a fuss over his passenger. The writers tried to play this off with the fact about Silas that he never really got into music.
The actors are all good actors and they do the best with the uninteresting script as they can. However, trying to uses the good-looking James as an awkward young man who has a hard time getting girls is not very believable. But that by no means is his fault.
The music in the film was also very distracting. First off, we never hear Hank Williams sing a song in the entire film whether on the radio or as Thomas playing Williams. The only Hank songs that are heard are sung by other people. Although the film’s soundtrack is all country, it is a mixture of modern versions of old songs, original versions of older songs, and new modern songs. It would have been much better if the music supervisor had kept period and era correct like the rest of the film. To watch a film set in 1952 and hear modern-day country took me right out of the film because it just didn’t fit.
It is stated at the beginning of the film that it this a mostly true account of the last days of this legend. One of the main differences is that the young man who was really hired to drive Hank Williams on that last trip was Charles Carr. He was a college student not a naive mechanic at a gas station. Carr’s family actually owned a cab service so the driving of people from here to there was not foreign to him. As a Williams fan, this is a huge part of his story and to me is much more interesting that someone who knew who Williams was his driver. Watching someone learn the truth about celebrities comes with its own difficulties.
The way this film was put together led me to believe that the Williams family had nothing to do with it. However, I have come to find out that part of the Williams family, namely Hank’s daughter Jett was involved in the film. She was born five days after his death and did not learn who her father was until the 1980s. Although I have read that she really enjoyed the film, the lack of glowing reviews from Hank Williams Jr. and Hank Williams III leads me to believe there may be some not so glowing reviews out there.
This could have been a better film with a better and more compelling script. However, because it did not want to draw any hard lines about Mr. Wells’ and his legacy, it just fell flat. The Last Ride is sadly is just a distraction from the legend that was and continues to be Hank Williams Sr.