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Movie Review: The Bikeriders

The Bikeriders. Title Card


“I know not where I am heading… 


 Let the road decide.


 It’s not the destination, it’s the glory of the ride.” - unknown

This is about the slow poisoning of something that was once innocent only to become something that no longer resembles the original thing. What was once an idea born from a love of racing motorcycles turned into a malicious shell of lost souls finding that what brought them together was no longer passion but a misunderstanding of what their origins dictated of them. They were supposed to be the outcasts brought together to create a strength among them where as individuals they were weak and vulnerable. There was violence but it came with an understanding that any violence was just acting as a catalyst of something done to them. By the end it was simply violence and worse as a means of intimidation and manipulation. Oftentimes that aggression was committed against their own colors, a sign of things gone horribly awry. 

Austin Butler as Benny. The Bikeriders.

The Bikeriders is about purpose turning into something malignant. It’s about realizing when it’s time to walk away and hoping that when you do so it’s not too late. For a lot of these guys, the original Vandals of Chicago, inspired by a real life motorcycle club known as the Chicago Outlaws Motorcycle Club, it was unfortunately too late. It would become a “chickens have come home to roost” situation for many of them as the life they created would become something wholly toxic and unrecognizable to the very simple idea of getting together to race and talk about motorcycles. 

Benny leads the pack. The Bikeriders.

Innocent but tenacious, Kathy unexpectedly finds herself in the deep end of a bar filled with drunkard bikers who claim they just want to have a good time. As she attempts to leave, fate steps in and its name is Benny. He looks good. She knows it and she’s pretty sure even he knows it. Ignoring every alarm in her brain, she inquires about him, eventually finding herself sitting with him and somehow deciding the rest of her life in that moment. Weeks into knowing him she marries him as well as the club he remains blindly loyal to. Over the coming months and years she must decide if he’s a worthy man strong enough to leave what she is certain will likely kill him, violently. Benny must decide what he wants his life to be. Can he sustain the lifestyle he molded as a young man into his older age or will time and karma begin to catch up? He finds himself being torn between his loyalty to Johnny and the Vandals and his love for Kathy. It may just prove to be too much for either of them. 

Johnny (Tom Hardy) and Benny (Austin Butler) smoke after a brawl. The Bikeriders.

Loyalty is important but as we watch Benny choose where he places that devotion, it becomes a lesson of when and where allegiance is appropriate. He grips with fervor the club he’s proclaimed an undying fealty to even when everything seems to be forcibly urging him to think beyond the patch of which he wears so passionately. His new love Kathy is understanding but comes with her own limits and expectations. As we learn more about her you can understand why she begins to resent the club but it’s also a case of her being unfairly or unrealistically upset about what she already knew Benny to be. She knew from the beginning about his commitment to the club, and to the club president, Johnny, but clearly states she intended on changing him. When he adheres to his convictions more than she anticipated she becomes disenchanted. While that may not exactly be fair of her, when you see the club that Benny once loved begin to contort into something neither one of them recognizes, you can understand her disdain for the entire lifestyle. 

Tom Hardy as Johnny is often singularly focused on his club but recognizes the necessity of keeping it contained. In Chicago he can reign in the mayhem but when chapters begin to pop up all over the country his grip on the club comes into question by newer members who never knew the original intent of the Vandals Motorcycle Club. For them it’s about being  intimidating bikers subservient to no man who doesn’t drape a patch on their back. As they become more ingrained within the fiber of the club’s identity, they become less about motorcycles and more about violence, drugs and murder. The Vandals are no longer what they once were and the original members trying to hold onto what was are finding themselves alone or, at the hands of a member, something far worse.

Kathy and Benny falling in love. The Bikeriders.

This is very much about a motorcycle club and its members. But this story is told from the perspective of a wife looking from the outside in, worried for her husband, a man blindly following an unsustainable life. This is her story in many ways and The Bikeriders is absolutely Jodie Comer’s movie. Austin Butler is quietly powerful and profoundly representative of a time when rebellion among young men seemed to be the status quo. Tom Hardy is phenomenal as Johnny, a man who tragically loses his simple but coveted idea he created to a bunch of criminals who pervert everything he worked so hard to build. While they are fantastic and unceasingly captivating, Jodie Comer as Kathy is the heart of what makes this such a wonderful film. She is hilariously local, loving and loyal to what she demands of herself. Comer is a light in the darkness trying to navigate her way to a place of safety and normalcy. She is a force and unbelievably engrossing.

Jodie Comer as Kathy. The Bikeriders.

The Bikeriders suffers from occasional pacing issues but the intent is to tell a story at their own leisure which can range from crawling to manic speeding on two wheels. The characters feel genuine, inspired by actual bizarre, unique individuals. Jeff Nichols’ direction is strong but measured, never feeling rushed to tell us about these fascinating people and their motorcycle club. He wants us, like a motorcycle ride in the country, to appreciate not just the rider but the scenic route he’s chosen for us to navigate. With these guys driving, prepare for some potholes because they seem to aim for them rather than avoid any bumps in the road.

Benny looks to Johnny for the next destination. The Bikeriders.

Rated R For: language throughout, violence, some drug use and brief sexuality

Runtime: 116 minutes

After Credits Scene: No

Genre: Drama, Crime

Starring: Jodie Comer, Austin Butler, Tom Hardy, Damon Herriman

Directed By: Jeff Nichols

Out of 10

Story: 8.5/ Acting: 10/ Directing: 9/ Visuals: 8


Buy to Own: Yes.


Check out the trailer below:


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