‘The Bikeriders’ Review | Jeff Nichols Explores The Motorcycle Subculture In A Magnificent Crime Drama – Coastal House Media

Filmmaker Jeff Nichols is known for his unambiguous Southern flavor and organic character. His latest venture The Bikeriders is no different. The film, his first feature film since 2016’s Loving, marks his most ambitious project in terms of scope and budget. Inspired by Danny Lyon’s 1968 photojournalistic book, Nichols explores the gritty and nostalgic 1960s motorcycle subculture, striking a balance between realism and sentimentality.

The movie begins with Benny (Austin Butler) sitting inside a bar and enjoying a drink. That’s when two men come to him and tell him that he needs to take off his jacket because “no colors are allowed” in this bar. When Benny denies taking it off, they get into a fight. Although Benny says nothing to them initially, as soon as one of them tries touching his bike he loses his mind and attacks one of them with his knife. However, he gets smashed by a shovel on the back of his head. This is how the story begins, but as it progresses, we get to know that it is highly inspired by Lyon’s book, which primarily focuses on the Chicago Outlaws Motorcycle Club. In the movie, we see Lyonn talking to Benny’s wife, Kathy (Jodie Comer). Spanning over nearly a decade, Kathy opens up about her experiences with the Vandals, a Chicago-based motorcycle club that gained prominence in the 1960s.

Austin Butler as Benny in ‘The Bikeriders’ (Focus Features)

Nichols’ storytelling prowess shines through in The Bikeriders, as he draws inspiration from Lyon’s book, which documented the Chicago Outlaws Motorcycle Club. The film deconstructs the romanticized view of this era while embracing its nostalgic allure, creating a longing for a bygone time viewed through a critical lens. The story follows the club’s evolution from a tight-knit brotherhood to a violent, mob-like network influenced by the era’s shifting social and political landscapes. At the core of The Bikeriders are three captivating characters: Benny, Kathy, and the club’s leader, Johnny (Tom Hardy). Although the film mainly revolves around the aforementioned characters, it also talks about the time when motorcycle clubs were not known for criminal activities. These people were not just known for their riding, but for their rebellious nature and how they supported each other. However, things went downhill when more and more new members continued to join the club, making it a haven for young criminal minds.

As soon as the group starts to expand, the camaraderie between the original members begins to crumble, turning the story into a darker mob drama with a biker twist. The escalating violence strips away the early romanticism, plunging the audience into a grim reality. The film’s strength lies in its fabulous writing as it follows these larger-than-life figures. Nichols didn’t shy away from showing two very different facets of their lives and dive deeper into the dark side of these motorcycle clubs. Meanwhile, the character development makes the viewing experience better. The pacing varies from moment to moment, but it never pulls the film back or makes the story look directionless. Every moment in this story means something and adds to the narrative.

Jodie Comer as Kathy in ‘The Bikeriders’ (Focus Features)

Acting-wise, Jodie Comer and Austin Butler are stunning as Kathy and Benny. Comer’s portrayal of Kathy is multi-dimensional, showcasing a woman navigating a testosterone-driven world with strength and vulnerability. Her evolution throughout the movie is splendid and conveys a wide range of emotions with utter precision. Despite being the sole female lead in focus, Jodie Comer steals the show with her commanding screen presence. Meanwhile, Butler is magnetic, embodying a smoldering bad-boy image that captivates the audience. He effectively balances Benny’s intense loyalty to the club with his unpredictable nature, creating a character that captivates everyone’s minds. However, it’s Tom Hardy who steals the show as the club’s leader, Johnny. He is fierce, yet soft. Hardy exudes charisma and authority, making him an alluring focal point of the film. His portrayal feels grounded, immersing himself in the world of the 1960s motorcycle subculture depicted in the film. The actor’s commitment to the role enhances the film’s realism and credibility.

Additionally, the film boasts of a superb supporting cast, including Michael Shannon as Zipco, Boyd Holbrook as Cal, Norman Reedus as Funny Sonny, Damon Harriman as Brucie, and Emory Cohen as Cockroach. All the aforementioned actors are brilliant in their respective roles and bring authenticity to the story.

The film is also rich in its technical aspects.  The sound, cinematography, costume design, and vibrant 60s soundtrack enhance the movie’s immersive quality. Nichols draws viewers in by initially showing how cool everything is and then confronts them with its harsh, violent reality. Overall, The Bikeriders is another win for Jeff Nichols and his exceptional storytelling. It is a dramatic and immersive journey into the tumultuous world of the outlaw motorcycle club, the Vandals MC. The Bikeriders offers a riveting look at the culture that might have lost its spark.

‘The Bikeriders’ is scheduled to release in theatres on June 21.

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