The Bikeriders – Roaring Start, but Quickly Runs Out of Gas

MOVIE REVIEW – Twenty years ago, Jeff Nichols stumbled upon a photo book on his brother’s coffee table about an outlaw motorcycle club that roamed the American Midwest during the 1960s. He immediately realized it was the coolest thing he had ever seen—both the book and the people in it.


Watching Nichols’ latest film, adapted from Danny Lyon’s “The Bikeriders,” feels like reliving that moment. And as the initially exciting plot starts to sputter and completely stalls after about 45 minutes, it perfectly mirrors Nichols’ struggle to find a story worthy of his long-held dream to depict the gritty and often brutal world of “bikeriders” on film. As the leader of the Vandals laments about his crumbling crew: “You can give everything you’ve got to a thing, and it’s still just gonna do what it’s gonna do.”



The Allure and Danger of the Biker World


It’s a shame because “The Bikeriders” does an excellent job of memorializing the world Johnny is about to lose. Tom Hardy, with his perpetually drowsy demeanor, portrays Johnny, who founded the Vandals after watching Marlon Brando in “The Wild One.” Already a married father of two in Chicago, Johnny, like many men, felt more at home in a dark bar with guys named Roach, Zipco, and Shitty Pete than in therapy sessions.

The desire to be part of something bigger isn’t limited to one gender, and Kathy—a no-nonsense Chicago girl, portrayed brilliantly by the chameleonic Jodie Comer—can’t resist the allure of the seemingly unattainable Benny (Austin Butler, blending elements from “Elvis” and Apple TV+’s “Masters of the Air” into his role). Nichols uses their courtship as an entry point into the story, and the excellent scene where Benny simply parks his bike outside Kathy’s house and waits (and waits, and waits) until her boyfriend gives up, perfectly captures the reckless passion between a bad boy and the good girl who falls for him. “I’ve had nothing but trouble since I met Benny,” Comer quips in the opening voiceover of a film that half-commits to a “Goodfellas” pastiche. “It can’t be love—it must be stupidity.”



Lovers and Bikers – Neither Tame


Well, stupidity can be magical if shared with the right people. Kathy and Benny’s early romance sparks something that initially holds the Vandals and the plot of “The Bikeriders” together. The film is at its best when the quirky characters enjoy each other’s company, whether speeding along Illinois highways or fighting rival clubs to strengthen their brotherhood.

Nichols’ cast perfectly blends toughness and vulnerability; these guys are all hard as nails but need each other like a real family. Nichols’ regular Michael Shannon is frighteningly entertaining as Pinko, who feels rejected by his country after his failed attempt to join the Vietnam War. Boyd Holbrook brings an easy charm as the gang’s mechanic, and Norman Reedus rolls in from California with dirty teeth and an unclear agenda, yet brilliantly embodies his bizarre character (imagine the dumpster creature from “Mulholland Drive” on a Harley-Davidson).



The Price of Belonging


Our bikers are rebelling against a world that already saw them as outsiders, and the blind—almost codependent—loyalty required by this rebellion seems a small price for such a bond. At least from the outside, it appears so, as the Vandals can’t ride through a town without inspiring a few angry young men to join them (including “Babyteeth” breakout Toby Wallace). But belonging to something can be dangerous, especially when it doesn’t belong to you.

Johnny and Kathy both learn this lesson in their own ways as they engage in a cold war over Benny’s soul. Yet, Benny is hardly a prize. Johnny envies Benny’s pure loyalty and paradoxical lack of attachments, while Kathy just wants Benny to choose their marriage over the club. Kathy’s arc is contextualized through a framing device where Mike Faist, playing a version of Danny Lyon, interviews her about the Vandals over a decade-long period, but Lyon’s avatar never becomes a meaningful part of the story, and his increasingly wistful appearances detract from the main narrative, losing its rhythm.



Not Exactly “Easy Rider”


As a result, the second half of “The Bikeriders” could be interesting but is much more disjointed, confusing, illogical, and banal than the first. Johnny feels trapped by his own creation, and when the Vandals grow large enough to define their identity, it becomes challenging for any subculture to survive that pressure, especially one that depends so heavily on making its own rules. Internal conflicts begin, “new guys” want to start their own chapters and take over leadership, but the film handles this plotline with a simplicity that borders on stupidity, and the Scorsese-like vibe that buzzes through the film’s opening fades into a mess of illogical plot twists and character arcs.

– Gergely Herpai  “BadSector”-



The Bikeriders

Direction - 6.4
Actors - 8.2
Story - 5.8
Visuals/Music/Sounds - 6.1
Ambience - 6.4



“The Bikeriders” starts strong but runs out of steam after 45 minutes, reflecting Nichols' struggle to find the right story. The film pays tribute to the charm and danger of the biker world, with notable performances from Tom Hardy and Jodie Comer. However, the initial momentum is lost, and the plot falls apart by the end, losing its early dynamism and cohesion.

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BadSector is a seasoned journalist for more than twenty years. He communicates in English, Hungarian and French. He worked for several gaming magazines - including the Hungarian GameStar, where he worked 8 years as editor. (For our office address, email and phone number check out our impressum)

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