The Bikeriders Review: In Jeff Nichols’ latest film, “The Bikeriders,” the motorcycling golden age comes to life but fades. The film, based on Danny Lyon’s novel, depicts a 1960s Midwest outlaw motorcycle club that falters. Tom Hardy plays Johnny, the head of the Vandals motorcycle gang, in the film, which depicts the first excitement of revolt before delving into personal tensions and existential dilemmas.
Tom Hardy’s Johnny, inspired by Marlon Brando’s “The Wild One” to form the Vandals, is intriguing. Johnny, a married father of two, leads a motley group of rebels like Cockroach, Zipco, and Shitty Pete for escape and purpose. Kathy, played by Jodie Comer, is captivated by Vandal leader Benny (Austin Butler). Their frisson and chemistry-filled romance gives depth to the plot. The movie’s opening is riveting and confident, portraying the Vandals’ brotherhood and sense of belonging. The Vandals’ drive for rebellion and togetherness shines through when they ride in formation on Illinois highways or fight rival clubs. The tough and vulnerable cast, featuring Boyd Holbrook and Michael Shannon, makes the characters relatable and compelling.
The storyline unravels as the story progresses. Johnny and Kathy argue about Benny’s loyalty, setting off the Vandals’ demise. Mike Faist interviews Kathy about the Vandals for a decade as Danny Lyon, but his character never fully develops. The film doesn’t explore the Vandals’ breakup. The film loses energy in the second half. Internal disagreements cause the Vandals to lose direction as they grow. The once-rebellious group struggles with identity, mirroring subcultures’ existential issues. Starting as a Scorsese-esque investigation of American rebels, the film loses its path, leaving spectators wondering, “What now?”
Nichols, who hasn’t directed since 2016’s “Midnight Special,” shines in “The Bikeriders,” especially in the first 45 minutes. Johnny laments, “You can give everything you got to a thing, and it’s still just gonna do what it’s gonna do.” The picture fails to maintain its initial flame.
Despite its flaws, “The Bikeriders” pays homage to a bygone era and shows a world on the verge of transformation. While it may not perfectly capture the novel that inspired it, the film leaves an impression, notably in its depiction of motorcycle gangs’ raw, unfiltered reality. Even when it runs out of petrol, it’s worth the ride.