Reel Reviews | The Bikeriders

by Charles Kirkland, Jr.

The history of a Chicago motorcycle gang is chronicled through the testimony of those within the organization in The Bikeriders.

One night on a request from a friend, Kathy goes to a bar where she encounters the members of a motorcycle gang called the Vandals including a strikingly captivating enigma named Benny.  Immediately smitten, Kathy ignores all her instincts and goes after him.  Soon Kathy realizes that being the wife of a motorcycle gang member is not all that it is cracked up to be.

The Bikeriders is written and directed by Jeff Nichols (Mud, Loving).  The film stars Jodie Comer, Austin Butler, Tom Hardy, Mike Faist, Norman Reedus, Boyd Holbrook, Toby Wallace and Michael Shannon.

The Bikeriders is the latest in a long filmography by Jeff Nichols that focuses on deep emotional relationships.  In this film, Kathy played by Jodie Comer is desperately in love with a man who appears to believe that membership in what amounts to a gang is more important than anything including her.  Tom Hardy plays Johnny, the leader of The Vandals who knows that he is slowly losing his grip on the gang he created and that Benny is the only resort for new leadership to maintain the gang.  Then, there is Benny played by Austin Butler who seems trapped in the middle of taking over leadership in a gang that he doesn’t want to lead and being the husband that he wants to be.

The film is a gorgeously depicted saga about a fictitious gang called The Vandals and is inspired by the real gang captured in Danny Lyons’ book of photography called “The Bikeriders.”  Nichols has a fantastic eye for storytelling and invests a lot into portraying the events of the movie set in the late 1960’s through the early 1970’s.  The film is scheduled though. 

Despite the phenomenon created by last year’s Barbeheimer, movies don’t often survive the summer and remain in awards contention.  This movie is a strong contender for awards consideration.  Being released during the summer, the film may be looked upon as a failed summer blockbuster.  The Bikeriders is a “prestige” film, rich in story, character development, and talented acting.

Jodie Comer, the breakthrough star of Killing Eve, is the leader of the acting pack.  From the moment Comer takes the screen with her dejust ep Chicago accent, she is captivating and intriguing at the same time. Comer spends a lot of time narrating the movie and through her voice, face, and actions, she guides the story on the screen.  Her performance in the film is worthy of a nomination at the very least. 

While her performance is outstanding and worthy, Comer is not alone in exemplary acting prowess.  Tom Hardy is also exemplary in his role as the saddened father figure who has lost his grip on his creation.  Hardy has created a distinct voice for this character as well.  Hardy’s last distinctive voice creation may have been his Bane in The Dark Knight Rises however, this edition is much more grounded and effective.

Just like any gang, The Vandals are full of charismatic personalities portrayed by several charismatic actors including Butler, Reedus Shannon, and more.  The collective ensemble is fantastic, but Comer leads the pack.

Rated R for language throughout, violence, some drug use, and brief sexuality, The Bikeriders is a powerful and engaging story that grabs its audience and drags it through the devolution of a motorcycle club.  The moral of the story is that every parent must fiercely protect their children, constantly guiding and shaping them in the fashion intended.  Once the parent stops and takes his hands off of the pottery wheel, the clay is destined to fall apart.

The Bikeriders is in theaters nationwide on June 21, 2024.    

 Grade:  A