© Universal Pictures International Germany GmbH

The Bikeriders
U.S.A. 2023

Opening 20 Jun 2024

Directed by: Jeff Nichols
Writing credits: Jeff Nichols
Principal actors: Jodie Comer, Austin Butler, Tom Hardy, Michael Shannon, Mike Faist

Jump on the bike and shift the gears for a spin into the “golden age” of motorcycle clubs and coasting along highways and byways with buddies. Writer-director Jeff Nichols has captured an iconic moment in American history, helped by Danny Lyon, who in real-time tagged along with the Chicago-based Outlaws MC, then wrote his eponymous photo-book in 1967. The Bikeriders shows the country’s awakening rebelliousness, the Vietnam War with its accompanying baggage, and then the rise of gangs and related violence.

Nineteen hundred sixty-five, a laundromat where Danny (Mike Faist) is interviewing Kathy (Jodie Comer): It all started when, doing my friend a favor I walk into this alien world. The bar is overflowing with tattooed, ears-pierced, chain-draped bikers, yet only Benny (Austin Butler) draws my attention. After dropping me off, then planting himself outside my house all night, I was hooked.

Johnny (Tom Hardy), a family man, formed the group for racing their bikes. Gradually it develops into the club, its mainstays Brucie (Damon Herriman), Wahoo (Beau Knapp) and Cal (Boyd Holbrook), Cockroach (Emory Cohen), Corky (Karl Glusman), and Zipco (Michael Shannon) – “he’s just always been there.” Christening themselves the Vandals, they set about making rules, although they never follow them. They are family. Other clubs start popping up; motorcycle club culture develops, e.g., club colors, and leaders being challenged, like when Big Jack (Happy Anderson) challenged Johnny. What a picnic that was.

Then a biker subculture emerges: Benny’s foot; Johnny’s retribution; the Vandals generational polarity. Brucie dying changes things, then the Kid (Toby Wallace), fully fledged, reappears. In the end, Kathy gives Benny the ultimatum both have dreaded.

The ensemble’s outstanding performances recreate Americans struggling with the waging challenges, and changes taking place in the 1960s and 1970s. Not to forget, it was also a very creative period in music, literature, art, et al. Jodie Comer’s outstanding performance as Kathy, strong-willed, fair, and pragmatic, establishes the seesaw motion that Austin Butler balances his vigorous, sultry, and salty performance on— “you are a crazy fuck.”

Music supervisors Bruce Gilbert and Lauren Mikus’ song choices are fantastically emblematic of that time. Chad Keith’s production design, Matthew Gatlin’s art direction, and Adam Willis’s set decoration create the atmospheric backdrops Erin Benach garbs in matching outfits, fads. Adam Stone’s cinematography is encompassing, and editor Julie Monroe interlaces 1965 and 1973. Watching The Bikeriders is like opening a time capsule that only adds to making it so gosh darn interesting. (Marinell Haegelin)

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