The Bikeriders Film Review Reviewed by Trish Connelly

If ever there was a perfect pairing to The Shangri-Las’ greatest hits, director and writer Jeff Nichols’ The Bikeriders would be it. Set in the midwest and taking inspiration from Danny Lyon’s book of the same name, Nichols’ film highlights a motorcycle-wheelin’, leather jacket-wearin’ gang under the moniker The Vandals who found community and a place of belonging in the late 60’s until its eventual demise for its original crew in the early 70’s. With casting including household names like Austin Butler, Tom Hardy, Jodie Comer and Michael Shannon, The Bikeriders boasts stellar performances throughout, despite some slow drags in the story’s retelling choices. 



Part of the film’s recounting is through Kathy (Jodie Comer), who’s interviewed by an observant and near silent Danny (Mike Faist), wielding a microphone around the intimacies of Kathy’s home. Recounting her first meeting with Benny (Austin Butler) in a grungy, dimly lit bar, and their immediate courtship ensuing in marriage a handful of weeks later, Kathy’s life gets severely uprooted from becoming a ‘respectable’ citizen to joining the ranks of a band of masculine outsiders. Benny’s brooding and mysterious nature is an automatic magnet for Kathy, a world revealed to her through fist and knife fights, drinking parties, and ventures on the back of Harley Davidson’s. As time wears on, Kathy has trouble envisioning a long-term future, especially as members of The Vandals sustain consequential physical injuries. Johnny (Tom Hardy), playing the leader of the pack, has his eyes set on Benny taking his place after he retires, and so ensues a push and pull for Benny to join the ranks of marriage or the head honcho for a crew of misfits. Yet it’s clear to see that Benny, a lone wolf unto his own with a fierce resistance to being tamed, finds he doesn’t fit in either category and prefers playing by his own rules. 


With a masterclass of actors, each performance is entirely believable in its own right. Kathy’s sweet albeit frenetic energy and talkativeness is in stark contrast to the usually composed yet violent nature of The Vandals, exuding masculinity and impulsiveness while always staying loyal to their connected brotherhood. Tom Hardy’s nasally tone and soft spokenness creates an even more threatening ringleader, a nonconformist and respectable hero that the rest attempt to emulate. However, the back and forth nature of Mike Faist and Jodie Comer’s interviews interspersed with segments of The Vandals’ on-the-road experiences ultimately takes away from forging a more intimate and emotional connection with its characters. Neatly picking and choosing pieces of the plot to recount, rather than letting the wild adventures and misfortunes unfold naturally, feels like an unnecessary choice to have instilled in the film. Despite a couple questionable directorial preferences, The Bikeriders takes a fascinating scope in time and place to portray themes of brotherhood, masculinity and the notion of outsiders attempting to fit in, as well as how youth and rebellion invariably cast a fire within us, even as the embers quietly smolder over time.


You can still catch The Bikeriders at Austin Film Society today through the July 4th holiday weekend with multiple screenings to choose from each day. Click here for tickets!

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