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Ride with the Devil
Promotional poster
Directed by Ang Lee
Produced by James Schamus
Written by Daniel Woodrell (novel)
James Schamus (screenplay)
Starring Tobey Maguire
Skeet Ulrich
Jonathan Rhys-Meyers
Simon Baker
James Caviezel
Music by Mychael Danna
Cinematography Frederick Elmes
Editing by Tim Squyres
Distributed by Universal Pictures
USA Films
Good Machine
Release date(s) November 24, 1999
Running time 138 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $38,000,000
Gross revenue $635,096

Ride with the Devil is a 1999 American Civil War drama directed by Ang Lee. It is based on the novel Woe to Live On, by Daniel Woodrell and the screenplay was written by James Schamus. The events depicted in the book and film take place in Missouri amidst an escalating guerrilla war.


Jake Roedel (Tobey Maguire) and Jack Bull Chiles (Skeet Ulrich) are friends in Missouri when the Civil War starts. Jack Bull's father is killed by Kansas Union jayhawkers. The two boys join the Missouri irregulars known as "bushwhackers" or "border ruffians" – informal units loyal to Missouri, not willing to fight someone else's war in Virginia. They meet George Clyde (Simon Baker) and former slave Daniel Holt (Jeffrey Wright), whom Clyde granted his freedom. They battle Jayhawkers using guerrilla tactics and hide out during the winter months.

Jack and Sue Lee (Jewel), widowed daughter-in-law to the man that is hiding them, become lovers. When Jack dies of gangrenous wounds received during a skirmish, Jake escorts Sue Lee south to a safe farm. Following the deaths of a number of female relatives and wives of the guerrillas in the collapse of a make-shift prison where they were being held by Union forces, the bushwhackers, led by William Quantrill, raid Lawrence, Kansas. In the midst of the raid a quarrel arises between Jake and fellow bushwacker Pitt Mackeson (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers). Jake, a German American was born in Germany but emigrated to the United States when he was very young, had suffered from periodical anti-German suspicion from other Southerners, because the German population in Missouri was largely sympathetic to the Union. His semi-affectionate nickname "Dutchie" ("Dutch" was the Anglo-American reinterpretation of Deutsch) was derived from Roedel's German ethnic background. The most virulent anti-German hostility came from Mackeson who shot Jake in the leg shortly after the raid on Lawrence, Kansas and while retreating from a counter-attack of Union forces. This anti-German prejudice made Jake apparently more sympathetic to the prejudice faced by the African American Daniel Holt, who was fighting with Rebel forces as a scout in part out of a personal debt of mutual friendship to George Clyde, his white comrade who had purchased his freedom before the war.

In the meantime Sue has had Jack's daughter. Both a wounded Holt and Jake recover at the same home that took in Sue. Under pressure from the family who mistakenly thinks the child is Jake's, he marries Sue in a good natured semi-shotgun marriage. Jake gives up being a bushwacker and takes his new family to California. Holt tells them that he will help them get by the Indians in the Nations before he leaves to look for his own family. On the way they meet Pitt again. In a tense standoff Pitt tells of their mutual friends who were hanged in Dover, Missouri, and in a roundabout way Pitt tells of his intentions to meet a similar fate in his nearby hometown, because he intends to go into town and have a drink. Afterwards Jake and Sue Roedel leave for California while Daniel Holt leaves for Texas to find his mother.


  • Tobey Maguire as Jake Roedel
  • Skeet Ulrich as Jack Bull Chiles
  • Jeffrey Wright as Daniel Holt
  • Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as Pitt Mackeson
  • Jonathan Brandis as Cave Wyatt
  • James Caviezel as Black John Ambrose
  • Simon Baker as George Clyde
  • Thomas Guiry as Riley Crawford
  • Mark Ruffalo as Alf Bowden
  • Jewel as Sue Lee Shelley
  • Tom Wilkinson as Orton Brown
  • Margo Martindale as Wilma Brown
  • Zach Grenier as Mr. Evans
  • James Urbaniak as Poker Player
  • John Ales as Quantrill

Production and reception[]

The scenes of the Quantrill's Raid on Lawrence, Kansas were filmed in Pattonsburg, Missouri. Pattonsburg was flooded out during the Great Flood of 1993, and the town was relocated leaving the empty buildings and homes available.

The film was intended to be a summer blockbuster, costing over US$35 million to produce. However, despite majority positive reviews by film critics it received negative press after screenings because of the portrayal of a Black Confederate guerrilla by Jeffrey Wright in a role based on Free Black John Noland who rode with Confederate raider Quantrill.

Controversy surrounding events depicted in the film is at odds with the factual nature of guerrilla warfare in Missouri during the Civil War. Historical accounts, such as Jasper County, Missouri in the Civil War (1923) by Col. Ward L. Schrantz, document the warfare depicted in the film.

The film was released on around 140 screens in the U.K. for a limited run and made barely over £100,000. It was then released without any promotion on eight U.S. screens for a limited run of only three days (January 20-22, 2000) fetching only $64,000.

The scheduled home video release of the movie was delayed four months so the distributor could alter the cover art and remove Jeffrey Wright's image from the front video and DVD and as of 2003 had yet to turn a profit.

In 2009, Ang Lee and James Schamus worked on a "director's cut", which was shown at a variety of venues in the fall and winter months. The "director's cut" was released on home video by the Criterion Collection on both DVD and Blu-ray April 27, 2010.[1]

External links[]

Template:Ang Lee Films

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