In Jeff Nichols’ latest film, “The Bikeriders,” the quote, “You can give all you got to a thing, and it’s still just gonna do what it’s gonna do,” encapsulates the unpredictable nature of filmmaking.
Despite passionate direction, powerful performances, and striking cinematography, creating a cohesive narrative can be a challenge.
“The Bikeriders” is Nichols’ exploration of the rise and fall of a Midwestern motorcycle gang set in the 1960s. It follows Johnny, played by Tom Hardy, a truck driver and family man, who forms the Vandals motorcycle club after being inspired by Marlon Brando’s portrayal in “The Wild One.”
The gang attracts an eclectic mix of friends and drifters, but as their influence grows, it spirals beyond Johnny’s control.
The narrative is intertwined with interviews conducted by Danny, portrayed by Mike Faist, who takes photographs and questions Kathy, played by Jodie Comer, the long-suffering wife of Benny (Austin Butler), one of the gang members.
“The Bikeriders” offers much to appreciate, drawing inspiration from films like “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” It replaces outlaws with bikers but retains the theme of individuals grasping at identity and a vanishing version of masculinity.
While the characters’ array of accents could fill a Midwestern grocery store checkout line, every performance is commendable for its audaciousness.
Tom Hardy, with his imposing presence and unexpected vocal cadence, embodies Johnny’s unpredictable nature. Austin Butler, following his role in “Elvis,” solidifies himself as a movie star with a mercurial and chaotic portrayal of Benny.
Jodie Comer’s Standout Performance
However, it’s Jodie Comer who steals the spotlight in “The Bikeriders.” As Kathy, she infuses the character with puckered vowels and sprightly sarcasm. Comer captures Kathy’s internalized exasperation and her unwavering love for Benny, portraying her as a force of nature, unafraid to assert herself.
The film’s imagery possesses a sense of romanticism, with Adam Stone’s cinematography lovingly capturing the leather-clad riders. The camera fetishizes their bikes and their longing for belonging, at times veering into homoeroticism, especially in scenes between Hardy and Butler.
Despite its strengths, “The Bikeriders” remains somewhat fragmented, a collection of intriguing characters and beautiful imagery that never quite coalesces into a cohesive whole. The film may have benefited from a deeper exploration of the complex relationships and rivalries within the gang.
A Visual Inspiration
Jeff Nichols was inspired by a book of 1960s motorcycle gang photos taken by Danny Lyon, dramatized in the film. While the photographs capture the essence of misfits searching for connection and meaning, the transition to film lacks the same narrative cohesion.
In conclusion, “The Bikeriders” takes audiences on a gritty journey through the tumultuous world of a 1960s motorcycle gang. Despite its compelling characters and captivating performances, the film falls short of achieving a seamless narrative. It’s a visual feast that captures the essence of a bygone era but leaves viewers meandering without a clear destination.
Q1: Who are the main stars in “The Bikeriders”?
“The Bikeriders” features Tom Hardy as Johnny, Austin Butler as Benny, and Jodie Comer as Kathy, among other talented actors.
Q2: What is the central theme of the film?
“The Bikeriders” explores themes of identity, masculinity, and the unpredictable nature of life within a 1960s motorcycle gang.
Q3: How does Jodie Comer’s performance stand out in the film?
Jodie Comer’s portrayal of Kathy is a highlight, showcasing her ability to convey exasperation, unwavering love, and assertiveness. She delivers a standout performance that complements the film’s narrative.