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The Bikeriders (2024)

-Written by Kyle Bain.

In the 60’s and 70’s, Danny Lyon (Mike Faist) followed, photographed, and studied the Midwestern biker gang known as the Vandals. In his travels he meets Kathy (Jodie Comer), a headstrong young woman in love with Benny (Austin Butler), the pseudo-psychotic bike rider who loves his gang like his own family. He, along with leader Johnny (Tom Hardy), begin to turn to a life of crime as the gang grows. The Bikeriders follows this trio and their gang of misfits as they traverse Chicago and wreak havoc on anyone and anything that stands in their way. 

In a film with actors of this magnitude, it’s important to give them the opportunity to shine. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve found actors fall victim to poor dialogue or an altogether lousy script. However, Writer-Director Jeff Nichols knows how to get the best out of his actors, particularly his three leads in Comer, Butler, and Hardy. While the dialogue here isn’t great, and really lacks sophistication (which maybe it was intended to as Nichols and his team attempt to depict the reality of a biker gang in the 1960’s), there is space between the words that permit everyone to shine. Within that space, these actors are able to use their talents to add depth and character to the script, to a thin narrative, and to the film as a whole. 

Intensity develops in these mere seconds at a time. The tone gets darker as The Bikeriders progresses, and that’s thanks to what this trio (and their counterparts) are able to accomplish throughout the course of the film–specifically in these moments. 

Much like the space in between the dialogue, there is space between the score, soundtrack, and sound effects as well that help to enhance The Bikeriders. Each of those aforementioned aspects regarding sound are essential to the success of the film–but Nichols develops a brilliant juxtaposition that helps to regularly reel the film back in and allow it to remain rounded. Again, these actors are given the opportunity to shine in these moments, and time and time again they take advantage of those opportunities. With a narrative this thin, one that doesn’t seem to head in one direction or set expectations, it’s important that Nichols stretch it as much as he can, providing bits of substance every step of the way. By creating brilliant, gargantuan pieces of sound, then pulling viewers back, he does just this–and The Bikeriders gets bigger and better with every instance of this. 

The Bikeriders is a slow moving film, and it takes a lot of time to develop. This is a complaint that I’ve heard about Nichols’ most recent cinematic venture. Though, I think this is done intentionally. Back in the 60’s and 70’s Danny Lyon looked to break the stigma that all biker gangs were bad, that the the group that inspired the Vandals in this film were more subdued and civilized than their rivals. He intentionally presented this group in a way that was different from what one might expect, effectively warranting a slowed down, meticulously developed film in The Bikeriders. By speeding the film up, it would have only played into the stigma of biker gangs as a whole. Sure, The Bikeriders is slow, and that may cause the viewing experience to become a tad frustrating for some–but the reality is that Nichols makes the decision to pace his film in this fashion for good reason. 

Is The Bikeriders perfect? No. The film jumps around a little too much, spoiling aspects of the film that ended up being the most entertaining of the entire journey. The dialogue doesn’t hold much weight, but I suppose to capture the true nature of the Vandals, the dialogue needed to play out the way that it did. What Nichols does so well (and what the actors take advantage of) is create opportunities between the bits of dialogue and between the boisterous sounds to bring out the best in his cast. Facial expressions and body language are what help to develop both intensity and subtle comedy–and The Bikeriders is most successful in these moments. 

Directed by Jeff Nichols. 

Written by Jeff Nichols & Danny Lyon. 

Starring Jodie Comer, Austin Butler, Tom Hardy, Michael Shannon, Mike Faist, Boyd Holbrook, Norman Reedus, Beau Knapp, Emory Cohen, Karl Glusman, Toby Wallace, etc. 



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