Let It Ride (1989)
Let It Ride (1989)

Genre: Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 30 min.

Release Date: August 18th, 1989 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Joe Pytka Actors: Richard Dreyfuss, David Johansen, Teri Garr, Jennifer Tilly, Cynthia Nixon




ab driver Jay Trotter (Richard Dreyfuss) and his separated wife Pam (Teri Garr) are having some marital complications, though they’re working on modifying their differences. While on a break during his night shift, he meets up with fellow cabbie Looney (David Johansen), who records all of his fare’s conversations. He plays back a crossfire between two men discussing a crooked horse race on Saturday, with equine #4, Charity, certain to win. It’s a hot tip, but Jay has struggled for years to give up gambling, which has gotten him into sizable debt and corresponding trouble in the past. His weak will isn’t enough to suppress the urge to place a bet on the race and, after praying to God in a filthy barroom stall, he proceeds with the gamble.

Although a long shot, with Charity’s chances being ridiculed by Looney, the racetrack employees, and regulars who all recognize Trotter, the payoff would be significant. When Charity wins, Jay is up $710. When he confronts the duo from the cab, two trainers who are clearly doing something illegal and are afraid of blackmail, they give him yet another tip – which leads to a $2450 win on Faith Healer. At the Jockey Club, he meets a bevy of eccentric, wealthy gambling addicts and the gold-digging women that cling to them. Feeling unstoppable, even when Pam shows up at the track to attempt to prevent her husband from throwing away his momentary winnings, Jay continues to “let it ride,” exponentially increasing his money (up to $69,000 after the 7th race).

The film forgoes themes of ethical preaching, the rise and fall of a legend, or a character hitting rock bottom in order to learn a lesson. Instead, it upholds the notion that risking everything on blind luck is worthwhile. It also ushers in slapstick and unrealistic gags for spur-of-the moment, spontaneous laughs that make the film seem like a cartoon – complete with exaggerated voices and wild-eyed expressions. Worse than the lack of a message (based on the book “Good Vibes” by Jay Cronley) and the over-the-top theatrics, which are rarely funny, is Johansen. He’s incredibly annoying, serving not as the whacky counterpart to Dreyfuss’ straight man, but rather as an unnecessary attempt at additional comic relief. His flamboyant overacting is nearly unwatchable.

“Let It Ride” features a very ‘80s soundtrack (with a dated song playing every few minutes), a young Cynthia Nixon in a supporting role, Robbie Coltrane as an enthusiastic ticket seller, and Jennifer Tilly as a leggy, bouncy, eye-candy brunette, sporting an incredibly short dress with a low cut bustline to match. Her ample bosom, heaving up and down while cheering for various races, seems to garner more screentime than most other supporting players. While the overall tone of the film is consistently upbeat, contrasting the ruthless bookies, the potential for foul play against Trotter and the cash he stashes in his shoes, and all of the other gamblers’ losing streaks, the absence of a clear vision and direction irreversibly hurts the entertainment value. A day in the life of a randomly lucky man, who doesn’t deserve his fortunes and certainly didn’t work for it, poses little purpose – especially when his wife gives up and gives in, admitting to her husband that she can’t stop his gambling and will resort to alcoholism to cope.

– Mike Massie

  • 4/10