The Bikeriders

The Bikeriders
Written and Directed by Jeff Nichols
Starring Jodie Comer, Austin Butler, Tom Hardy, and Michael Shannon
Running time 1 hour and 56 minutes
MPAA Rating R for some drug use, language throughout, brief sexuality, and violence
In theaters June 21
Set in 1960’s Chicago, The Bikeriders is a story about the fictional Vandals Motorcycle club
based on the work of photojournalist Dany Lyon, who spent four years traveling with a
motorcycle club to document their lifestyle. He eventually turned these recordings into a book
called “The Bikeriders” which features interviews and photographs he took of the group.
Jeff Nichols builds this film like a mix between Scorsese’s Goodfellas and a documentary with
one of the members wife, Kathy (Jodie Comer) as the narrator sharing stories of the gang to use
and journalist Danny (Mike Faist). Nichols is more interested in creating a mood and attitude
than in telling a proper story. There a several storylines intertwined throughout the film, but
none of them carry much weight. Tom Hardy and Austin Butler simply ooze old Hollywood with
homages to Marlon Brando and James Dean. The film romanticizes a lifestyle and time but it
doesn’t have a lot of substance under the service, but when a surface that looks as good as this
one does, it doesn’t really need much else. It has so many elements I look for as a film critic,
beautiful lighting, strong acting, evocative music, but unfortunately, the script is the weakest
aspect.
While Austin Butler and Tom Hardy are going to be the main draw for many audience members,
it’s Jodie Comer who stands out with a melodic Midwestern accent, strong moral center, and
fierce determination. She completely disappears into the role and I don’t believe I would have
recognized her if I didn’t know she was cast in the film. She’s joined by a strong supporting cast
of actors including Damon Herriman (Brucie), Cal (Boyd Holbrook), Zipco (Michael Shannon),
Cockroach (Emory Cohen) and Funny Sonny (Norman Reedus). You can practically smell the
leather, sweat, stale beer, and machismo that’s from these men, especially Reedus who fellow
critic Valerie Cameron said “He probably smells exactly like he looks.”
My main critique of the film is the multiple story lines all competing for the audience attention.
There is the rocky marriage between Kathy and Benny, the friendship of Benny and Johnny
(Tom Hardy), the dynamics of the crew as a whole, and the journalist listening to their stories.
With a title of The Bikeriders, I expected to gain some insight into the motorcycle gang culture,
the history of how it formed and changed over the decades, and the values they stood for. The
script and story doesn’t focus on any particular plot line, so it glosses over details, and the
audience is left with a movie about men who like to ride motorcycles, don jackets with patches,
fight with each other but share a beer together moments later. We learn nothing about the
journalist, what his motivation was to interview the group, why he allowed in, or why he comes
back years later to get more interviews, except that he may one day write a book.

Overall, it’s a good movie and it had the potential to be a modern classic, but it’s a solid B for
me.

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