Jake Roedel and Jack Bull Chiles are friends in Missouri when the Civil War starts. Women and Blacks have few rights. Jack Bull’s dad is killed by Union soldiers, so the young men join the Bushwhackers, irregulars loyal to the South. One is a Black man, Daniel Holt, beholden to the man who bought his freedom.
They skirmish then spend long hours hiding. Sue Lee, a young widow, brings them food. She and Jack Bull become lovers, and when he’s grievously wounded, Jake escorts her south to a safe farm. The Bushwhackers, led by men set on revenge, make a raid into Kansas. At nineteen, Jake is ill at ease with war. As his friends die one after another, he must decide where honor lies.
Ride with the Devil is a 1999 American Civil War Western film directed by Ang Lee. The storyline was conceived from a screenplay written by James Schamus, based on the book Woe to Live On, by Daniel Woodrell. The events portrayed in the novel and film take place in Missouri, amidst escalating guerrilla warfare at the onset of the American Civil War.
A loose dramatization of the Lawrence Massacre is depicted. Tobey Maguire stars as Jake Roedel, a Southern militiaman, who joins a group of marauders known as the Bushwhackers. The gang attempt to disrupt and marginalize the political activities of Northern Jayhawkers allied with Union soldiers. The ensemble cast also features Skeet Ulrich, Jeffrey Wright, Jonathan Brandis, Jim Caviezel and musician Jewel.
The film was a co-production between Universal Studios and Good Machine. Theatrically, it was commercially distributed by the USA Films division of Universal. In 2010, The Criterion Collection released a restored high-definition digital transfer for the home media market. Ride with the Devil explores politics, violence and war.
Following its limited release in theaters (released to only six theaters for only three days), the film failed to garner any award nominations for its acting or production merits from accredited film organizations. On November 23, 1999, the original soundtrack was released by the Atlantic Records label. The score was composed and orchestrated by Mychael Danna and Nicholas Dodd. Singer-songwriter Jewel also contributed a musical track from her second studio album Spirit.
Principal photography began on March 25, 1998. Ride with the Devil premiered in only six theaters nationwide in the United States on November 26, 1999, for only three days, grossing $635,096. Taking into account its $38 million budget costs, the film was considered a major box office bomb.
Ride with the Devil (1999)
Directed by: Ang Lee
Starring: Tobey Maguire, Skeet Ulrich, Kathleen Warfel, Jewel, Jeffrey Wright, Simon Baker, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, James Caviezel, Thomas Guiry, Tom Wilkinson
Screenplay by: James Schamus
Production Design by: Mark Friedberg
Cinematography by: Frederick Elmes
Film Editing by: Tim Squyres
Costume Design by: Marit Allen
Set Decoration by: Stephanie Carroll
Art Direction by: Steve Arnold
Music by: Mychael Danna
MPAA Rating: R for graphic war violence.
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Release Date: November 26, 1999