The Bikeriders Review – IGN

The Bikeriders: A Film Review

The Bikeriders opens in theaters December 1. This review is based on a screening at the 2023 BFI London Film Festival.

A Long-Held Desire Realized

Five years ago, filmmaker Jeff Nichols shared his desire to make a movie about America’s motorcycle culture with his friend Michael Shannon. After some encouragement from Shannon, Nichols finally brings his dream to life with The Bikeriders. The film is based on Danny Lyon’s 1967 photography book of the same title, providing an intimate look into the life of The Chicago Outlaws, a Midwestern motorcycle club.

The Bikeriders Gallery

A Reflection on Friendship

The Bikeriders explores the camaraderie and friendships within the 1960s blue-collar motorcycle club, the Vandals. Led by their founder Johnny, portrayed by Tom Hardy, the Vandals are a group of misfits bonded by their love for motorcycles, music, and women. The film introduces us to various characters such as Cockroach, Cal, Corky, Wahoo, and Zipco, all with their own quirks and personalities. However, it is Benny, played by Austin Butler, who captures the attention of Johnny and the audience with his brooding demeanor and passion for riding.

The Voice of Reason

Kathy, portrayed by Jodie Comer, serves as the voice of reason amidst the machismo of the motorcycle club. As a strong-willed woman, Kathy shares her experiences with a cub reporter named Danny. The dynamic between Kathy and Benny, as well as the raw masculinity within the group, draws parallels with Martin Scorsese’s films like The Wolf of Wall Street and Goodfellas. However, Nichols brings a softer touch to the narrative, balancing tenderness with the violence that ensues.

A Glimpse into Motorcycle Culture

The Bikeriders captures the essence of motorcycle culture, where liquor flows freely and occasional blood is shed. The film balances humor with shocking moments of brutality, allowing the audience to develop affection for this group of renegades. The charismatic performances, particularly Jodie Comer’s fast-talking Kathy and Tom Hardy’s beleaguered Johnny, add to the film’s charm. Norman Reedus also makes a delightful cameo as Funny Sonny, a zonked-out Californian biker.

A Road Trip Through Time

The Bikeriders, primarily set in Chicago, takes on the pacing of a road movie due to its multi-year timeline. While the skipping between time periods can be a bit confusing, Nichols maintains a steady pace that aligns with his previous works’ focus on human stories. Instead of a strict plot, the film offers a slice-of-life portrayal of relationships within the group, particularly between Johnny and Benny. Although it may lack high-octane action, The Bikeriders captures the sense of community found in motorcycle culture.

A Nostalgic Yarn

The Bikeriders weaves a nostalgic tale, featuring the music of the Shangri-Las and an abundance of denim. It provides a glimpse into an idealized world where the open road offers an escape from troubles. While the film lightly addresses the end of the golden age of the 1960s and the shift towards criminal activity among bikers, it remains a compelling and evocative portrayal of a bygone era.