The Sidehackers (aka Five the Hard Way) is a 1969 Exploitation Film which follows the attempts of a garage mechanic and amateur motorcycle racer to avenge the rape and murder of his girlfriend.
The trouble starts when one JC and his gang bring their motorcycles to be repaired by the film's hero, Rommel. The topic of conversation turns to "sidehacking", which is basically a motorcycle race with sidecars (ostensibly for balance while turning). Rommel invites them all to his ranch to see a demonstration of this sidehacking; and JC gets totally into it, desiring to form a partnership of sorts. Rommel, for reasons unspecified, is not too keen on this idea, and JC gives us a first glimpse at his hair-trigger temper (further developed in a later scene in which JC beats up his girlfriend Paisley).
Paisley, smitten with Rommel, goes to him and flirts, apparently hoping he will whisk her away from JC. Too bad for her, Rommel is faithful to his own girlfriend Rita, and rebuffs Paisley rather harshly. Enraged, Paisley goes back to JC and claims Rommel raped her. However, JC takes his vengeance to the extreme — he goes and beats up Rommel, sure, but then he rapes and murders Rita, right in front of the helpless Rommel.
The police seem unable to locate JC; so Rommel, with nothing left to live for, sells all his worldly possessions in order to hire a gang to go exact his own revenge. He gets help from an unexpected source; a couple of JC's henchmen, Cooch and Nero, defect to Rommel's side. Except Cooch is The Mole and is secretly reporting Rommel's moves to JC. Ah, but Rommel is aware of Gooch's secret, and so this plot point... ultimately goes nowhere. In the meantime, JC gets bad vibes about Paisley's rape story and strangles her in a jealous fit.
It all leads to a final showdown in an old rock quarry, with the two gangs essentially wiping each other out and leaving JC and Rommel to have a climactic one-on-one. Rommel narrowly defeats his nemesis; but just as the police are finally arriving to arrest JC, JC shoots Rommel dead.
The film is best known for its appearance on Mystery Science Theater 3000, which wound up changing the show's history. The creators of MST3K were unaware of and unprepared for the graphic rape/murder scene, which horrified them so much that they altered the process for screening films; from this point forward, all potential movies would be screened in their entirety before being chosen for inclusion on the show. For more info on the episode, please go to the episode recap page. The original uncut film can be seen starting here.
The Sidehackers contains examples of:
- Anyone Can Die: Crapout, Nero and J.C. are the only characters who survive the battle at the rock quarry.
- Big Guy Fatality Syndrome: Big Jake is the first one of Rommel's team to die.
- Berserk Button: Any time JC doesn't get his way.
- Bittersweet Ending: Though the story is a Downer Ending, it could be seen as a bittersweet one From a Certain Point of View. Almost everyone, including the hero, gets killed (while the villain lives)... but the villain is implied to get arrested afterwards. Rommel's friend at the garage knew a bit about what was going on and even asked Rommel, "Why don't you just call the police?". In a nutshell; The whole flick boils down to J.C. having Karma Houdini Warrantynote and the stupidity of not calling law enforcement to do their job note .
- Black Dude Dies First: Inverted; Nero, the only black character, is one of the only characters who DOESN'T die.
- Brick Joke: Very poorly executed. Crapout is telling a joke involving prisoners shouting numbers at random. The numbers stand for jokes the prisoners already know. Nero starts to tell a joke, but Crapout stops him and tells him he knows that one already. "That's a number 5!"
- Cannot Tell a Joke: The punchline of the above joke is that the new prisoner can't tell a joke, even when he's just calling a number. Ironically, Crapout himself falls under this trope because he can't stop cackling long enough to finish a single sentence while telling the joke, completely killing the humor.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Guy turns you down and is a bit tactless about it? Don't just falsely accuse him of rape, do so to your psychotic boyfriend and his gang of armed thugs!
- Domestic Abuse: JC to Paisley.
- Evil Is Hammy: JC. Ain't that right? WELL? AIN'T IT?! AIN'T IT RIGHT?!
- MY OWN FLESH I DIDN'T LOVE BETTER!
- Falling-in-Love Montage: Rommel and Rita at the beginning, although they've actually been in love for a while.
- False Rape Accusation: Paisley does this to Rommel because she was hoping he would be her Knight in Shining Armor against JC but Rommel rebuffed her, even suggesting she needed to grow up some.
- Groin Attack: Rommel delivers an epic punch to J.C.'s nuts at the end of their fight. sadly, this didn't stop J.C. from shooting Rommel in the back.
- Halfway Plot Switch: ...with perhaps echoes of First Law of Tragicomedies. The film starts off as a goofy, cheesy motor-sport flick about Sidehacking. Then, after his initial comically-disastrous introduction, J.C. has that blow-up during dinner... then it gets dark from there. This was the main reason those at Mystery Science Theater 3000 picked this movie to begin with. They were expecting a goofy, "hep-cat", teeny-bopper motor-sport flick, not a dark "Murder-Rape-Revenge" flick.
- HeelFace Turn: Averted in that Nero was never a bad guy. He's the only one (besides Gooch) who isn't present during the home invasion/assault and helps Rommel because he's sick of JC's abuse.
- The Hero Dies: Rommel gets shot in the back by J.C. after he seemingly incapacitated him with a Groin Attack.
- Jump Scare: The sudden close up of murdered and hanged Rita with the loud Scare Chord after Rommel wakes up from the brutal beating of J.C.'s goons.
- Karma Houdini Warranty: As downer-riffic the movie is, J.C. still gets arrested. The cops were just pulling up at the end of the big fight and saw what happened to Rommel. J.C's bound to have quite a rap-sheet. It's either "Life" or "The Chair" for the psychopath.
- MookFace Turn: Nero defects to Rommel's side, having presumably become fed up with JC's instability, egocentrism, racism, and rape and murder of an innocent woman in order to get revenge on her fiance.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Paisley comes to regret lying about Rommel, saying she doesn't know who she hates more, JC or herself. She tells JC she wants to get away from him, which throws JC into a rage and he strangles her, pushing him off the slippery slopenote .
- Offscreen Moment of Awesome: The titular sidehacking competition largely occurs off-camera, focusing instead on the in-universe audience's unimpressive reactions.
- Police Are Useless: They can't seem to find JC after the murder, even though he's hiding in a local rock quarry. Even worse, he was hiding in his hotel for ten days before moving to the rock quarry.
- Politically Incorrect Villain: JC. That bit where he starts yelling at Nero, the sound goes out and the Mystery Science Theater 3000 crew yells at him to shut up? Yeah, it's just what you're thinking. Plus, he's a misogynist who beats, rapes & kills women.
- Psychopathic Man Child: JC throws raging tantrums when things don't go his way.
- Rape as Drama:
- Invoked in-story, when Paisley falsely cries "rape" in order to incite JC against Rommel.
- Rita's murder.
- Revenge drives most of the film, either one way or the other.
- Revenge Before Reason: Rommel going after JC, rather than telling the cops where he is.
- Rule of Symbolism: So screwed up only the makers of this film could possibly explain the symbolism of a racist, misogynistic Jesus Christ. And the hero's named after a Nazi General.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: After gunning down JC's gang, Nero and Crapout head for the hills and end up being the only characters who survive.
- Strength Equals Worthiness: How Rommel recruits bodybuilder "Big Jake" to his gang - kinda.
- Technical Pacifist: Rommel won't allow his Vengeance Gang to use guns, even though he knows JC's men will. His gang feels differently.
- Third-Person Person:Big Jake: (after Rommel hits him) He hit Big Jake!
- Too Dumb to Live:
- Cooch, did you really think anyone would believe you were shitting in the bushes for over an hour?
- Rommel tells his men "no guns" when they start the assault on JC's lair, even though every single one of JC's goons are packing heat.
- JC finds nothing odd about how casually Paisley tells him she's been raped.
- Together in Death: Rommel and Rita... ev-evidently? What was that?
- Token Minority: Nero.
- Word Salad Title: Five The Hard Way. Ostensibly a reference to dice-rolling ("the hard way" refers to rolling doubles, which of course cannot add up to an odd total), but this does not play into the film in any manner except for the song that plays at the beginning... which also does not relate to the film in any way other than being there.