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regular-article-logo Wednesday, 24 July 2024

The Bikeriders: Austin Butler, Jodie Comer, Tom Hardy vroom to motorcycle clubs of yore

Directed by Jeff Nichols, the film also features Michael Shannon, Norman Reedus, Boyd Holbrook and Michael Faist

Chandreyee Chatterjee Calcutta Published 22.06.24, 03:21 PM
Tom Hardy and Austin Butler in The Bikeriders.

Tom Hardy and Austin Butler in The Bikeriders. IMDb

Jeff Nichols’ The Bikeriders is less a crime film and more an ode to an American subculture that has so far only been seen as criminal gangs. Based on a photobook of the same name by Danny Lyon, which documented the lives of the Outlaw Motorcycle Club, The Bikeriders looks at the lives of the fictional Vandals MC in the suburbs of Chicago and its devolution from racing club to a violent criminal gang.

Starring a brilliant cast of Austin Butler, Tom Hardy and Jodie Comer, The Bikeriders is a visual delight because who doesn’t love bad boys in leather on mean machines? Especially when each shot of the club’s members looks like a still out of the photobook it is based on, which we see when the end credits roll.

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The story follows Benny (Austin Butler), a member of the Vandals, a club started by Johnny (Tom Hardy) for bike enthusiasts. When I say bikes, I mean choppers put together by the riders themselves. The club grows into a social group that becomes more like a family. Most of them have a job, like Johnny is a truck driver and Cal (Boyd Halbrook) is a mechanic. But not Benny, who exists for the joy of riding.

While the story is fictional, there are characters based on the riders in the Outlaw Club like Johnny, Benny, Kathy and even Lyon. The story is told through Lyon’s (played in the movie by Mike Faist) interviews with Kathy (Jody Comer) who talks about how she walked into a bar full of rough bikers and stayed when she saw Benny — a true delight to behold with his sinew arms, stubbled jaws and dishevelled hair. Such is Butler’s magnetism that you totally believe that Kathy married him just five weeks after she met him.

The first time we see the Vandals riding in a group, we are left as breathless as Kathy. And the film is mostly just this group of men in leather and the club’s “colours”, patches with a skull and swords crossed on the back of the jackets, riding, hanging out at “picnics” and drinking or playing pool at their local bar. But that is only so far a movie based on a photobook can go and when the plot pits Kathy and Johnny against each other over Benny, the film gets a bit tiring.

When the club starts growing with new members — war vets with drug and addiction issues, young lads who understand only violence — Johnny is out of his depth and looks to Benny as a successor. Kathy wants Benny out of the club after he is beaten up and his foot is almost chopped off just because he refused to take off his “colours” at a bar.

But even though Benny is loyal to Johnny, which makes him stay, he refuses to be tied down by the responsibility of managing the club. This love triangle starts out as interesting but becomes a bit overdone by the end of it. We say love triangle because even if Johnny and Benny’s relationship is not homoerotic, you know that their relationship is deeper than just friendship.

The violence in The Bikeriders is what you would expect from a movie about a motorcycle club, and there are beatings and burnings and shootings galore. The movie ends with the club losing its original members and devolving into a criminal gang when a young whippersnapper (played by Toby Wallace) challenges Johnny to a knife fight only to end up shooting him dead.

All three leads — Butler, Hardy and Comer — are fantastic. Butler exudes movie star charisma as he channels James Dean, a rebel without a cause. He doesn’t speak much but he imbues his silence with so much magnetism that it hardly matters. Hardy channels Marlon Brando from The Wild One, a movie that reportedly inspires Johnny to start the Vandals MC, and makes it difficult to look away from him.

Comer plays Kathy with just the right amount of coquetry and a thick Midwestern accent that sets the rhythm of the film. The supporting cast is no small thing either with Faist and Holbrook being joined by the likes of Michael Shannon (a Nichols regular) and Norman Reedus.

But forgetting everything else — and you can call me shallow — a movie with rumbling mean machines and Butler and Hardy in leather riding them is always a movie worth watching.

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