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Neither a testosterone-filled biker film nor a deconstruction of the genre from a female point of view, The Bikeriders is to be applauded for being its own thing, yet it lacks the excitement to win you over.

If trailers are supposed to lure you into the movie theatre, the promotional team behind The Bikeriders did a great job, selling the film as a thrilling, brooding, violent sixties-set genre movie. The question is whether you will feel cheated after seeing the picture.

While a large part of The Bikeriders’ plot does concern the rise of a bike gang whose morals gradually unravel, director Jeff Nichols isn’t all that concerned with toxic masculinity or motorbike fetishism, as you might have expected. Emotionally the movie plays out more like a small-scale kitchen-sink drama than a action-packed drive-in flick.

Part of the reason is that the tale is narrated by one of the biker’s wives to a photo journalist who once hung out with the gang, before they became corrupted. Played terrifically by Jodie Comer with a distinctive, bubbly accent and ditto persona, the framing device adds a female gaze to the story that’s undoubtedly refreshing.

And yet it’s hard for The Bikeriders to escape the tropes of the genre. Rivalries, violence, repressed emotions: all of them make appearances, pushing against the intended flow of the story and in the picture’s third act they take over completely, also because Tom Hardy and Austin Butler stick too close to a pastiche of Marlon Brando in The Wild Ones and Jimmy Dean in Rebel Without A Cause.

This makes the movie a tonally and thematically uneven effort that will likely see you leaving the movie theatre unsatisfied, even if there is much to admire in Jeff Nichols’ direction and Comer’s performance.

release: 2024

director: Jeff Nichols

starring: Jodie Comer, Austin Butler, Tom Hardy, Mike Faist


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