KSL Movie Show review: ‘The Bikeriders’ didn’t blow me away

Jun 21, 2024, 9:00 AM

the bikeriders movie poster next to ksl movie show host steve salles...

"The Bikeriders" is based on a photo book by Danny Lyon.

Editor’s note: This is an editorial piece. An editorial, like a news article, is based on fact but also shares opinions. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and are not associated with our newsroom.

SALT LAKE CITY — Believe it or not, I once rode with the Hells Angels in Yosemite’s High Country on a breezy Saturday afternoon. By accident. 

I was probably 13, on my family’s Honda 90, sent to get fish bait at the nearby Tioga Lake’s General Store. 

The infamous motorcycle club and I just happened to share State Route 120 for about a mile or two. I should have been terrified, but I was too young and naive to realize what was happening. 

Those memories came flooding back as I sat watching “The Bikeriders.”

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Based on a photo book by Danny Lyon, played in the movie by Mike Faist, the film features the 1960s rise of the Outlaws MC, whose name was changed to the Vandals MC in the movie so nobody would become road meat — I guess. 

And even though the story is more about the macho camaraderie of a club of loyal bikers, it’s told through the expressive eyes and voice of the wife of Benny (Austin Butler). 

Her name was Kathy (a real person) played by the brilliant English actress Jodie Comer (“Killing Eve” “Free Guy”). 

What makes her performance so mesmerizing is her down-home, Midwestern accent that never wavers and brings some light directness into a dark, tough guy movie. She’s easily the best thing about this film. 

We’ve certainly come to expect that tough guy character from Tom Hardy, who plays the Vandals’ smoldering, commanding leader Johnny.

And nobody does smooth coolness better than too-pretty-for-his-own-good Austin Butler, who plays Johnny’s brooding right-hand man. 

So what’s this about?

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It’s mainly about how this motorcycle club changed over a decade. It goes from happy-go-lucky racing buddies on the weekends to troublesome outcasts putting fear into the hearts of small-town citizens and law enforcement.   

There’s a telling scene where Johnny orders a bar be burned to the ground for supporting the beating of one of his club’s members. The bikers are standing around watching the flames, as the camera pans to groups of awaiting firemen and police, too afraid to approach. 

As Kathy points out, “That’s real power.” 

Unfortunately, it will soon go to their heads.

The other thing you’ll notice is there are a lot of supporting characters played by well-known leading actors. 

I know Michael Shannon is writer/director Jeff Nichols’ good luck charm. He’s now been in six Nichols’ films. 

But we also have Walking Dead’s Norman Reedus popping in as Funny Sonny, Boyd Holbrook as Cal and Toby Wallace simply as The Kid.  

Bottom line, I respect the craftsmanship of “The Bikeriders” — the terrific acting, directing, writing, and cinematography — but the movie as a whole just didn’t blow me away.

I guess sometimes “terrific” can just be “really good.”  

THE BIKERIDERS (B) Rated R for language throughout, violence, some drug use and brief sexuality. Starring Jodie Comer, Austin Butler, Tom Hardy, Michael Shannon, Mike Faist and Boyd Holbrook. Written and directed by Jeff Nichols (“Take Shelter” “Mud”) – filmed in Cincinnati, Ohio. Running time: 116 minutes.  

The KSL Movie Show with Andy Farnsworth and Steve Salles airs Fridays on KSL NewsRadio from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Follow the show on Facebook, and join The KSL Movie Show Club for exclusive perks by texting MOVIE to 57500.

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KSL Movie Show review: ‘The Bikeriders’ didn’t blow me away