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'Last Ride' looks like an ad, runs on autopilot

The new USA movie "The Last Ride" doesn't represent the latest step in product placement. It heralds a brave new world of "actor placement," in which professionals such as Dennis Hopper and Fred Ward are paid to appear in insidious feature-length ads. Like the waxen models in glossy magazine spreads or the "real-people" audiences in infomercials, the actors in "The Last Ride" are onboard not to perform so much as to lend attitude and allure to the sales pitch.

Basically, "The Last Ride," which premieres tonight at 8, is a two-hour attempt to hip up the Pontiac GTO image for a few generations of men. The movie, which was coproduced by the director of "The Fast and the Furious," Rob Cohen, is all about turning the muscle car into an iconic image of masculinity and freedom. It's a visual collage of car chases and car races, with some uninspiring tough-guy dialogue fitted in between. Not surprisingly, Cohen approached Pontiac with this ad/

movie hybrid idea before it was written. The plot involves an ex-con (Hopper), his uptight cop son (Will Patton), and his pretty-boy grandson (Chris Carmack), who is flirting with a life of crime and with a sexy car mechanic (Nadine Velazquez). All three men need to bond before two hours are up, and there's a certain car that might be able to enable the process. Since the entire movie is sponsored by Pontiac, we can probably expect to see a few clips of that certain car during the movie's commercial breaks, too.

To ensure road cred, the producers cast "Easy Rider" star Hopper as the man searching for the 1969 GTO that could help him nail a bad guy. Hopper fares better than the pouting Patton and the cardboard Carmack, best known as Luke on "The O.C." And they all fare better than Ward, who follows up "10.5" with yet more unintended camp. But judging performances is truly beside the point when it comes to "The Last Ride," unless we're talking miles per hour.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at

The Last Ride
Starring: Dennis Hopper, Chris Carmack, Will Patton, Nadine Velazquez, Fred Ward
Time: Tonight, 8-10
Rated: TVPG

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