The Bikeriders

The Bikeriders is a cherry 72 Ducati with L-twin engine that stalls repeatedly and never gets enough road to reach full speed.
69/1003570
Starring
Tom Hardy, Austin Butler, Jodie Comer
Director
Jeff Nichols
Rating
R
Genre
Crime, Drama, Gangster
Release date
June 21, 2024
Overall Score
Rating Overview
Story/Plot
Visuals/Cinematography
Performance
Direction
Non-Wokeness
Rating Summary
The Bikeriders could have been the next American biker movie classic. Despite the film's constant momentum-killing cutaways from the action to expositional interviews, and its virtual non-existent character development, the cast is magical and the core story is full of unrealized potential.
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Movies about motorcycle gangs have long intrigued audiences with their blend of rebellion, freedom, and danger. The genre took off with “The Wild One” in 1953, featuring Marlon Brando in a role that would become iconic, capturing the restless spirit of the post-war era. The Bikeriders attempts to continue the tradition.

The Bikeriders

Inspired by the 1967 photo book of the same name by Danny Lyon, The Bikeriders depicts the lives of the Vandals MC, a Chicago outlaw motorcycle club founded in McCook, Illinois, from a surrogate family for local outcasts into a violent organized crime syndicate over the course of a decade.

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The Bikeriders Review

The Bikeriders is an odd movie to review. Although it is nothing like last year’s Renfield in tone, subject, etc., it does share one unfortunate similarity. Both feel like two different movies spliced together, one having unlimited potential for greatness while the other suffocates that greatness in exhaust fumes. In the case of The Bikeriders, any narrative momentum or character development is cut short by a neverending succession of faux interviews between Austin Butler’s character’s wife, played by Jodie Comer, and photojournalist Danny, played by Mike Faist.

As stated in the summary above, the film is inspired by a photo book that was fashioned over the course of several years by Danny Lyon, who traveled with the Vandals in the late 60s, photographing and interviewing them throughout their adventures. While this, no doubt, made for an interesting photo book, the interview structure in the film, with Comer’s Kathy as the story’s defacto narrator, is a completely unneeded narrative crutch that cheaply exposits character perspectives, motivations, and histories while robbing the story of a chance to grow and develop organically.

Conversely, the flashbacks themselves are gripping, well-written vignettes with crisp, economical dialogue, solid cinematography, and performances that, given time to breathe, would have gone beyond excellent (which they are) to otherworldly. By now, we all expect nothing less than a brilliant performance from Tom Hardy. If the man can make Star Trek: Nemesis worth watching, he can do anything. After his turns as Elvis and then Feyd-Rautha in Dune, Academy-nominated Austin Butler is no different. For The Bikeriders, neither man disappoints nor does anyone else. In fact, had the film been a straight narrative instead of a 50% faux documentary, the upcoming awards season would have been overpopulated with The Bikeriders performers big and small.

There’s something about the mixture of brotherhood, freedom, and ingrained danger of early bike clubs that taps into the primal male psyche, which makes it challenging to ruin a movie about them. While The Bikeriders isn’t ruined, it’s certainly wounded. Its inherently compelling characters have their emotional throughlines neutered by the film’s structure, which robs the audience of their chance to empathically bond with these wild and free men. The result is a frustration akin to riding a performance machine in traffic. You know what it can do; it just never gets the chance to do it.

 

WOKE ELEMENTS

At Least It Has This Going For It
  • Nada.

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James Carrick

James Carrick is a passionate film enthusiast with a degree in theater and philosophy. James approaches dramatic criticism from a philosophic foundation grounded in aesthetics and ethics, offering insight and analysis that reveals layers of cinematic narrative with a touch of irreverence and a dash of snark.

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