Movie review: The Bikeriders

posted: July 6, 2024

tl;dr: An unflinching look at how a gang forms, grows, and evolves, not always for the better...

I am a bike rider, so naturally I enjoyed The Bikeriders. I saw it for the first time with members of my H.O.G. chapter. But because the movie is about so much more than motorcycles, I believe non-riders who appreciate fine cinema will enjoy it as well.

At its very core The Bikeriders is a gang movie. It just so happens that motorcycles are the shared interest that initially brings together the members of the club/gang portrayed in the movie. Yes, bikers will appreciate the 1960s era motorcycles in the film, as well as the elements of biker culture that are portrayed. But interpersonal relationships and dynamics are much more important to The Bikeriders than the bikes themselves.

A movie poster featuring an image of the torsos and heads of two men and a young woman, all clad in black, below which is a photo of around a dozen motorcyclists wearing the same large patches on their backs, riding away from the camera, with the names of the three stars of the movie at the top and the title and detailed information about the movie at the bottom

The Bikeriders explores a variety of related themes in an unflinching, adult way:

The Bikeriders is also a love story, about a woman who loves a flawed man. Gangs don’t exist in isolation: their members have families, relationships, and they interact with the rest of the population. The romance between the working-class characters of Kathy and Benny is crucial to showing the impact the club/gang has on others.

Kathy is actually the main character of The Bikeriders, with the most speaking lines. The actress who portrays her, Jodie Comers, gives a strong performance. Comers speaks in character with what I thought was an overly-heavy Chicago accent until I mentioned this to a fellow moviegoer who grew up in the Chicago area, and she replied, somewhat jokingly, “What accent?”. The other two leads, Tom Hardy as Johnny and Austin Butler as Benny, also create memorable characters, although Butler has the easier job: his character Benny is a man of few words and many poses. Most of the film is set in working-class areas of Chicago and its suburbs in the late 1960s and 1970s, and the filmmakers did an admirable job of recreating that timeframe and place.

When I know I’m going to see a movie, I try to avoid viewing previews or trailers, or reading early reviews or articles. That way I can have the most impactful experience in the theater by seeing scenes for the first time. There’s a quite interesting backstory on The Bikeriders and the book that it is based upon, which I won’t reveal here in case you are like me. The Bikeriders movie should be regarded as fiction that has elements of historical truth in it. An actual documentary, if it had the same level of access to the principal characters as the movie is able to portray, would be fascinating. But since that doesn’t exist, I recommend The Bikeriders.