The Bikeriders

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway


Jeff Nichols’s docudrama “The Bikeriders” based on Danny Lyon’s expose on The Outlaws, is vivid and percussive, if formulaic. While there are no heroes to root for, the film is arresting on the strength of its production and empathetic acting.

In the manner of a Scorsese film voiceover, one is in the realm of a motorcycle gang known as The Vandals. As voiced by a sarcastic and heavy accented Kathy (Jodie Comer) we know things are going to go from bad to worse, we just can’t predict the sequence of events.

Johnny (Tom Hardy) is the leader. He is the strong silent type reminiscent of Brando in “The Wild One” the very film that Johnny is transfixed by in the story.

Benny (Austin Butler) is a young delicate-faced man with blue eyes and melancholia who Johnny takes under his wing. One feels that he has the weight of the world on his shoulders. He walks with a hunch and takes big strides as he walks. Benny is a definite James Dean persona.

One day during a gang barbecue, the group is visited by the monstrous looking Sonny (Norman Reedus) who looks almost identical to Bobby Peru (Willem Dafoe) in David Lynch’s” Wild At Heart.” While Sonny has scary rotten teeth, the gang has nothing to fear. Sonny only wants to be part of the group.

The crux of the drama hinges on just how violent the gang wishes to be with Johnny losing hold on the gang he built as a taciturn young man.

At times, the film feels like a conceptual piece, an exercise in creating a Martin Scorsese film, with accents of the aforementioned “The Wild One” complete with Brando mumblings.

That being said, the action is brisk, and the acting is solid. While the cliches are in place, full of punches, squared shoulders, and sulking speech, the film is testament to how potent yet also how dated and very unreal the concept of the reckless and bruising male remains in this spacey distant AI age of 2024.

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