The Bikeriders Image

The Bikeriders

By Bradley Gibson | June 20, 2024

The Bikeriders, from writer-director Jeff Nichols, presents the history of a fictional motorcycle club called The Vandals in Chicago in the 1960s and early 1970s. The story is told through interviews conducted by a photojournalist, Danny (Mike Faist), who dedicates years to documenting the club. The chronology is provided from the point of view of Kathy (Jodie Comer), the wife of club member Benny (Austin Butler). As she recounts the club’s legends, it becomes clear that the story has four main elements. We see how she met Benny, whom she later married.

The man who started the club is Benny’s friend, mentor, and father figure, Johnny (Tom Hardy). The relationship triangle between these three makes up the human drama. The fourth critical element is the motorcycle itself. Motorcycle culture in the Midwest evolved from the interest of men who had served in WWII and became acquainted with English bikes from BSA, Triumph, and Norton. These Cafe Racers gave rise to the Rocker / Greaser culture in England. Some of the bikes ridden by the Vandals are English Cafe Racer bikes, but they gravitated to the American Harley Davidson over time. Unwilling to turn their bikes over to mechanics, these riders fix and modify the machines themselves. Each machine becomes a personal artistic testament to the design and mechanical skill of the owner.

Tom Hardy stars as Johnny in director Jeff Nichols’ THE BIKERIDERS, a Focus Features release. Credit: Kyle Kaplan/Focus Features. © 2024 Focus Features, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

“…a photojournalist dedicates years to documenting the club…”

In The Bikeriders, Johnny, an avid bike racer, gets the idea for a Chicago MC based on Marlon Brando’s The Wild One. The club provides a family structure for blue-collar men with few friends and no extended family. This is particularly compelling for those who went to war and felt that no one outside that “band of brothers” experience could ever relate to who they were when they came home. As time passes and the club membership expands, Benny finds himself torn between allegiance to his wife, Kathy, and his obsessive dedication to club culture and near worship of Johnny. Benny, Johnny, Brucie (Damon Herriman), Zipco (Michael Shannon), Cal (Boyd Holbrook), and Funny Sonny (Norman Reedus) make up the hardcore praetorian guard of the Vandals club.

The club begins to drift away from the central ideas of fellowship and motorcycles and into more unsavory activities, including violent crime, prostitution, and drugs. The club becomes less controllable with this expansion. It’s more of a gang and less of a brotherhood. Many new members were also disenchanted with government rules and dedicated themselves only to the laws of the MC. Some wear “1%” diamond shape patches. These “one percenters” are inspired by a comment made in 1960 by William Berry, a former president of the American Motorcyclist Association, that 99% of motorcyclists were law-abiding citizens. The outlaw clubs are in the 1%. Even as the club grows to an unmanageable size, Johnny’s insistence that any member can challenge him for leadership with “fists or knives” leaves the viewer wondering if anyone could ever defeat Johnny, who that might be, and when.

The Bikeriders (2024)

Directed and Written: Jeff Nichols

Starring: Jodie Comer, Tom Hardy, Austin Butler, etc.

Movie score: 8/10

The Bikeriders Image

"…classic cinema style."

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