Life & Culture

The Bikeriders review: Jodie revs it up in this tale about bikers on a dead end


Jodie Cromer and Austin Butler in Bikeriders


This film stays close to the photojournalistic spirit of Danny Lyon’s book about American bikers in 1960s Midwest. Lyon is played by the fresh-faced Mike Faist (The Challengers) who, armed with a microphone and Nikon, embeds himself with the grizzled leather jacketed members of The Vandals, a biker’s club in the mould of Hells Angels and founded by Tom Hardy’s truck driver Johnny.

Lyon’s main interviewee is Kathy, played by Jodie Cromer, who completely convinces as a thoughtful and occasionally terrified girl-next-door type who falls for Austin Butler’s cooler-than-ice biker, Benny.

The script by writer/director Jeff Nichols is driven by Kathy’s account of life in the gang as a biker’s moll. But what makes the movie compelling are her observations about what makes bikers tick.

“Johnny wanted what Benny had,” she tells Lyon’s microphone. “To not care about nothin’.” Johnny got the idea of starting a club after the kids had been put to bed while watching James Dean on TV in Rebel Without A Cause.

In that role role Hardy demonstrates the depths of his cinematic charisma by channelling his inner Marlon Brando (few could do that and get away with it as Hardy does), while Butler’s Benny is exactly the kind of carefree cat that Dean’s performance was getting at. Meanwhile, the scene where Cromer’s beautifully observed Kathy swoons on the back of Benny’s growling bike says everything about why anyone would want to be a Vandal.

Yet it is in Hardy’s Johnny that the film truly grips with its tragic portrait of self-destructive masculinity.

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