Party’s Over: Our Review of ‘The Bikeriders’

Posted in Theatrical by - June 21, 2024
Party’s Over: Our Review of ‘The Bikeriders’

A member of the Chicago Vandals Motorcycle Club, ‘Benny’ Cross (Austin Butler) introduces himself to a woman. That woman is Kathy (Jodie Comer), who eventually marries him and perpetually competes for his complete, undivided attention. She discusses all of this to a photographer (Mike Faist) interviewing bikers for a book. Anyway, Benny loves her, but he’s also an adrenaline junkie, making police officers chase him outside the city. He also gets into bar fights where members of the club (Tom Hardy, Michael Shannon, Boyd Holbrook, and Emory Cohen) defend him. Cue the montages of the club having open air picnics where they drink up and fight all day. But it’s obvious that the parties in Jeff Nichols’ The Bikeriders can only last for so long.

If anything, the film deserves a lot of credit for thinking through some of its crafty aspects like production and sound design. It makes sense to see some kind of collaborative craftsmanship from Nichols, who make films about Americana. He puts his characters’ relationships to the test, to demystify figures who make their own myths. The sound design here is amazing in capturing the dread one feels when not even walls can protect characters from these motorcycle clubs. The same goes, as I previously mentioned, for the production where bars make do with uneven bar stools. The Bikeriders depicts spaces that feel like home to its characters but only to a certain extent.

The Bikeriders is a passion project for Nichols, who thought of making it after coming across a coffee table book. Again, he and the crew deserve a lot of credit for their hard work. But it’s unfortunate that the final product falls short. And sure, it’s nice for Nichols to use a movie set so he can capture Michael Shannon and Norman Reedus drinking and hanging out. But how many montages most viewers sit through. It takes a while to get to the plot that involves a fight that begins Benny’s spiral. The film’s opening fight also ends with a freeze frame that also feels goofy as hell. The same goes for Kathy’s narration. Comer does her best in delivering run-on sentences but she’s literally a twitch away from a Kristen Wiig character.

Again, The Bikeriders gets its nucleus from a book showing pictures of motorcycle riding gang members of yore. Nichols imagines those lives but even the main characters lack the kind of dimension outside of this being anthropological. Most viewers have also seen the male cast be badasses in previous films but it’s as if they’re holding back. It takes the right amount of danger to make machismo interesting and it’s disappointing to see these actors to not exude it. The same goes for Kathy, the only female character who gets more than one scene in a film that doesn’t flesh her out. Again, Comer’s working really hard but what’s the point if all she does is play a character stopping the other characters from doing the brave thing?

Watch The Bikeriders in a theatre near you.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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