Director: Gus Trikonis
Writers: Tony Huston from a story by Larry Billman
From: Cult Cinema
A man seeks revenge against the people who assaulted and murdered his girlfriend.
As featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode 202, which maybe tells you everything you need to know about the film. Curiously, the movie is significant because it’s the one that forced MST3k to change the way they previewed and selected movies for broadcast. Before they watched The Sidehackers, they would typically only watch the first few minutes of a movie before deciding whether or not to riff it. After The Sidehackers, they watched every movie all the way through before selecting them. Excited to hear what it’s about? No, you’re not, cause it’s about nothing.
The movie opens with an actual sidehacking race. For reference, as the movie explains, sidehacking is form of motorcycle racing where a small platform is welded onto the side of the bike. A second rider then uses his body and the bars holding the platform on to help the bike make tighter turns. Interesting enough as a niche form of racing, but if it’s going to be the plot of a movie you’re going to have to either focus on the drama of the people doing the sport and trying to make a living or the work of people trying to get the sport taken seriously.
Which is why this movie runs away from sidehacking as a plot point as quickly as it can.
Our hero is Rommel, a sidehacker and motorcycle mechanic. He’s in love with Rita and the two are planning to get married and move to a ranch in the country. One day, a member of touring motorcycle exhibition brings a bike in for repair. The boss, J.C. comes as well and starts asking about sidehacking. He takes a liking to Rommel, goes to a race that weekend, and then hangs out with Rommel that evening. While they get along, it becomes clear that J.C. is more than a bit unhinged and potentially violent. He invites Rommel to join his exhibition team, but Rommel declines.
Later, J.C.’s girlfriend Paisley hits on Rommel. He turns her down as well so she tells J.C. that Rommel raped her. J.C. and his team then find Rommel and Rita in their house, beat Rommel, and rape and kill Rita.
By the way, if you’re wondering why MST3k changed their selection procedure after this movie, that’s why. The show completely cuts the assault and make reference to it only by having Crow say, "For those of you playing along at home, Rita is dead." I watched the MST3k version, by the way.
So the movie is now about Rommel seeking revenge. He eventually gathers a team which gets infiltrated by a member of J.C.’s crew. Rommel susses out the traitor, though, and goes to confront J.C. All of J.C.’s crew gets killed, two members of Rommel’s escapes, and then J.C. and Rommel fight each other. Rommel seems to have defeated J.C. as the police approach, but J.C. pulls a gun and shoots Rommel in the back, killing him. THE END.
Now, some of you may be asking what any of this has to do with motorcycle racing. That’s the wrong question. Instead, you shouldn’t think about this movie long enough to wonder about it at all. Just let it pass through your consciousness as though it never existed because, in all the ways that count, it doesn’t.
There’s something very strange about a movie that purports to be about a unique activity that then runs as quickly away from that activity as it can. I’d say the movie could just be about motorcycle racing in general, but it really can’t. The movie’s not interested in the racing element at all. The plot is Rommel being a good mechanic and then turning down J.C.’s offer to join his team. The story is about a person having to deal with a sociopath falling into their life. Why add the sidehacking angle?
All of this side-steps the issue of assault at the core of the movie. Paisley uses a false rape accusation to get J.C. to attack Rommel and Rita, which leads to J.C. actually assaulting Rita, which then leads to the rest of the plot. Also, J.C. kills Paisley at the end so you can maybe read that as some sort of comeuppance, but she was flirting with Rommel in the first place because J.C. was abusive and she was trying to get away. Rommel, by the way, brushes her off, implying that her abuse is her own fault.
It’s just a lot to unpack and, ultimately, none of it is worth the effort. This is a boring little exploitation flick that tries to differentiate itself form the teen sport flicks of the time by having a grim core and nihilistic conclusion. None of that is clever, though. Instead, it’s cheap and manipulative. On top of all that, it’s boring. This is another movie that’s not even worth getting mad at. If you can find the MST3k version, check that out. It has some good riffs and the host segments are pretty solid. As for the movie itself, skip it.