Faced with the familiar conundrum of crafting a new image as an adult, former Mickey Mouse Club child star Tommy Kirk signed on to play a disgraced Vietnam veteran in this downbeat drama from cowriter/director Duke Kelly, who never made another theatrically released film. Conceptually, Ride the Hot Wind is rich. Kirk plays Captain Gregory Shank, a character inspired by William Calley, the real-life American officer responsible for the My Lai massacre. In Ride the Hot Wind, Gregory is accused of orchestrating a My Lai-type slaughter, then tried and briefly imprisoned by the Army. All the while, he claims innocence. After enduring abuse in military prison, Gregory tries to start fresh in civilian life, but his past haunts him—employers fire Gregory once they learn his true identity, strangers drag him into brawls, and women can’t handle his emotional baggage. Eventually, Gregory finds a new tribe with a group of bikers, but that situation turns sour when the bikers’ propensity for pointless violence leads to a crime spree and then a manhunt by police who assume Gregory is the ringleader. One wishes Kelly had sold his concept to reputable producers, thus resulting in a better script, a proper budget, and more impressive casting. Just imagine a slick version of Ride the Hot Wind starring, say, Bruce Dern—I mean, like, wow, man. Despite obviously trying hard, Kirk is not anywhere near that level. His acting is as inconsistent and labored as Kelly’s direction and scripting, so Ride the Hot Wind in a deeply underwhelming (and sometimes unintentionally funny) viewing experience. What a bummer of a missed opportunity.
Ride the Hot Wind: LAME