“The Bikeriders”: Dramatic and Powerful

When I saw the trailers for the film The Bikeriders, I knew immediately that I wanted to see it. The powerful images and the impressive cast enticed me as well. What I hadn’t anticipated was just how dramatic and powerful the film would be, with the cast giving outstanding performances one and all. 

“The Bikeriders” is a crime drama film written and directed by Jeff Nichols. It tells the fictional tale inspired by the 1967 photo book of the same name by Danny Lyon depicting the lives of the Outlaws MC, a motorcycle club founded in McCook, Illinois. Set in the 1960’s, the film follows the rise of the Vandals, a Chicago outlaw motorcycle club. Seen through the lives of its members and their families, the club evolves over the course of a decade from a surrogate family into a violent organized crime organization that threatens the vision of the founder Johnny (Tom Hardy) and his way of life. The film also focuses on the relationship between Kathy (Jodie Comer) who is drawn to one of the riders, Benny (Austin Butler) and how the changes in the club challenges their relationship. 

The film is beautifully written and set up using the character of a photographer, Danny (Mike Faist) to introduce the various riders and the club. It is a brilliant technique that allows the viewer to be pulled into the world of the motorcycle club with ease as we get to know the club from Kathy’s point of view as she shares the ups and downs of the group with Danny as he interviews her over various points in time. The story also has a quite dramatic set up that demonstrates just how wild and strong willed Benny is right from the start. Kathy takes the audience through how she meets and gets involved with Benny and the club. I really liked how the interviews also helped the audience to know exactly how much time has passed in the film.

The film has an extensive cast of characters. What works is how each rider is introduced and how the interviews are used to share their lives. We also see how much changes over time with each of them. With so many, it could have dragged but instead the writing uses a lot of humor to help lighten the darker moments and allows us to empathize with the group, how much of a surrogate family they are for each other. Being outsiders, it shows that it’s about belonging to something, to not being isolated. While there are moments that are violent, we also see how much the riders bond and take care of each other. The film also doesn’t flinch in showing the changes in the group, the embrace of violence and crime, going from a group that loves riding and flaunting small rules to a group that has no problem harming others or their own if someone tries to leave the group. 

Jodie Comer is the heart of the film. Her performance is fiery and emotional, as she struggles with the changes in the club and in Benny. Her portrayal of Kathy is powerful and her chemistry with Austin Butler is incredible. Austin Butler plays Benny fantastically well, portraying the character as quiet but dramatic. One of his final scenes in the movie is one of the most profoundly emotional scenes. The dynamic between him and Tom Hardy portraying Johnny is powerful. Tom Hardy is brilliant as Johnny, infusing his role with depth and emotion. You can see how the changes wear on the character, an amazing performance by Hardy. Beyond these main three, the entire cast is incredible. Michael Shannon was an unexpected pleasure as Zipco, bringing tons of humor in his character’s viewpoint on educated men. Boyd Holbrook as Cal was a pleasure to watch. There was far too little of Norman Reedus as Funny Sonny but what scenes he was in, he managed to steal the spotlight and was hilarious. Damon Herriman as Brucie was talented and skilled. Toby Wallace as The Kid was vivid and dark, the perfect foil to Tom Hardy’s character. 

While I loved the slow progression of the lives of the club, I did find the film did move slower than expected at times. I do think it was critical to take the time to build the lives of the group and share the changes but if you aren’t interested in motorcycle clubs or riding, it might drag a bit for you. For all that, I found the interviews helped guide the film and keep the audience centered in time. I always knew exactly what was happening and when.

If you like crime dramas, this film might be a draw for you, especially if you love motorcycles. If you are into Sons of Anarchy or the like, this will be a dramatic and powerful film that will show just how the motorcycle clubs changed over the years to become like the clubs of today. The scenes when the group is riding are beautiful. The bond between the men is beautiful. But it is the performances, particularly Jodie Comer, Austin Butler, and Tom Hardy, that make this film. The entire cast is incredibly talented but these three are so emotional and brilliant in their portrayals that they kept me riveted on the story, despite the slower progression of the movie. It is worth it for these outstanding actors.

Rating: 4.5 colors out of 5

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