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  • Writer's pictureRob Ervin

Alex Reviews "The Bikeriders"

Motorcycles have been woven into the fabric of America for over a century. From rapid messengers of the First World War to many forms of entertainment and sport we see across multiple channels today. It might be impossible to find a person in this country that does not know the name Harley Davidson, let alone the allure of freedom synonymous with hitting the open road on two wheels. At a particular point in time, that freedom began to splinter among enthusiasts and those with a more jaded view of life became notorious. The Bikeriders follows one of the largest (if not the largest) groups on their descent from club to gang…one that still exists today, The Vandals.


Inspired by the Danny Lyon book of the same name and his interviews with the group, the film is told mostly from the viewpoint of Kathy (Jodie Comer), a wife of original Vandals member Benny (Austin Butler), as the club forms and grows until it becomes a shadow of its origins leaving the difficult decision for those involved whether to stay true to the family they have or the one they made along the road. 


Jeff Nichols wrote and directed The Bikeriders to mirror the changing of the country in the 1960s when Danny Lyon was riding with The Vandals. It beautifully reveals a microcosm of the turmoil felt everywhere using the once small motorcycle club brought together as the “lost children” of society. Be prepared for this to never be better explained than a scene with Michael Shannon that is teased in the trailers which fully shows why the actor has been nominated for over a hundred awards.


From a directorial standpoint, I will be curious to see if there is a cut of the picture that is purely chronological, as there is some minor time jumps that caused me some slight struggling to follow; however, they are jumps that eventually make sense for the narrative and its pacing. Hopefully, knowing about them helps you avoid my difficulties.


Michael Shannon is not the only actor BRINGING IT in their performance as the entire cast is at the very top of their game. Tom Hardy continues to be one of the best tough guys on screen (and in real life) and balances terrifying dictator with subtle charm befitting the kind of person you would immediately go to bat for in any situation. It is so natural for Hardy and many of the primary actors that I would bet that they are all portraying a slightly twisted version of their own personality. Norman Reedus, Boyd Holbrook (Logan), Damon Herriman (Mindhunter) and Hardy all disappear into the story. My only gripes are actually with the two leads. Comer is always wonderful and crushes her role, but the accent killed me. Using what can only be described as a Minnesota dairy farm elocution for a woman who lived in Chicago was too much for me in a few scenes. To clarify my belief on the accent, I sought out Lyon’s tapes of the original Kathy and that is not her accent. The other complaint is a bit of a double-edged sword. Austin Butler feels too clean cut as the wild man of a biker gang, though he has to be to have stood out so much to draw Kathy out of her suburban life. Butler is absolutely mesmerizing in performance, but lacked the rugged believability that Charlie Hunnam had in Sons of Anarchy.


The Bikeriders is a phenomenal study of the disillusionment of the American people after the Vietnam War and deserves to be seen by as many people as possible. While it may not be as action-packed as ads infer it to be, it has such amazing performances that the drama more than makes up for that. Bonus fun: the Michael Shannon scene mentioned earlier, is almost verbatim to the actual Zipco’s statements to the author back in 1966.

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