‘The Bikeriders’ Review: Jeff Nichols Delivers The Must-See Ride of the Summer 

At the 2023 AFI Film Festival, I saw Jeff Nichols’ The Bikeriders and fell in love with it. After the festival, Searchlight sold the film to Focus Features, and it is in theaters as of June 21st. Heading into the movie a second time, I wondered if it would ignite the same fire it did for me the first time or whether or not they changed things around. Either way, I will share my review of the film below and let you know if you should watch it on the big screen. 

The Bikeriders is based on Danny Lyon’s picture book. It explores a Midwestern motorcycle club as it evolves from local outsiders to a gang that threatens the original group’s way of life. Jeff Nichols wrote and directed the film, which stars Tom Hardy, Austin Butler, and Jodie Comer in the lead roles. 

Jodie Comer was the backbone of our journey

The entire film is told from the perspective of Kathy (Jodie Comer), who answers questions from photographer Danny (Mike Faist) about the Vandals. Kathy is a somewhat shy yet innocent girl who falls in love with Benny (Austin Butler), a good-looking, risk-taking, wild bad boy who lives on the edge. Kathy unpacks their relationship, the Vandals’ rise and fall, and how it all impacted her life. 

We watch the first time Kathy and Benny (Butler) meet as Kathy (Comer) walks into this bar filled with loud and obnoxious bikers. Kathy is overwhelmed by everything inside the bar and wants to leave relatively fast. However, as Kathy stands up to leave, she sees Benny (Butler) at the pool table and is quite smitten by him. She sits back down and asks her friends who that good-looking man is. 

Who was that good-looking man? Benny is a rugged, handsome kid with the charm and smile to rip your heart out. Jeff Nichols understood the assignment to reel the viewers into the world of Benny. He shot this in an almost slow-motion way. When the camera pans up, we see not only this unbelievably handsome man but also the movie star, Austin Butler. 

Austin Butler is a movie star

Of course, Butler broke into the scene with his transformative performance as Elvis Presley. Less than a year later, he turned people’s heads with his villainous performance of Fyed in Dune: Part Two. Now, as Benny, Butler transforms into a no-nonsense risk-it-all-for-the-moment biker who loves his crew. Butler is a bonafide movie star and showcases that throughout this film with his presence, aura, and devilishly good looks. 

While Butler brought his A-game as Benny, the film simply doesn’t work without Tom Hardy as Johnny. As leader of the Vandals, Johnny was often soft-spoken, but when it came down to business, Johnny was assertive in his actions. The Vandals had an open door policy if you wanted to challenge for the top spot, and Johnny would respond, “fists or knives.” Hardy carried himself as a leader while holding the demeanor of a man, watching what he built slowly fall apart. The Vandals might’ve been tough on the surface, but the heart of the group is what holds this film together.

The rest of the cast in The Bikeriders perfectly adds to the ambiance of the Vandals, whether it was Michael Shannon’s speeches, Norman Reedus‘ hilarious role, or Toby Wallace’s presence that altered the entire movie. The casting director deserves massive credit for putting this whole crew together. 

Nichols brilliantly chose to keep the film honest within its roots. He didn’t make anything outlandish or crazy, yet he built a story of a motorcycle gang through the eyes of a wife who lived through it all. Nichols built the story from a picture book, and the way he shot the film resembles that. How he delivered the pictures was almost awe-inspiring, and you nearly got this frame-by-frame build to feel the authenticity ooze through the lens. 

Cinematographer Adam Stone has worked with Nichols on all his feature films and has done some incredible work. The Bikeriders has several shots that take your breath away. In this chaotic world of the Vandals, Stone delivered this calm color palette that makes the film pop. Costume Designer Eric Benach also deserves massive praise for making the entire Vandals gear feel authentic. Benach attention to detail makes you almost want to get your own jacket and jump into the local biker gang. 

Final Thoughts on The Bikeriders

Within my second watch of The Bikeriders, I fell even more in love with the world that Jeff Nichols built. He grabs ahold of you by the throat, makes you feel like you are a Vandal, and proceeds to tear you apart in the same ways the group fell apart. Between Nichols’s brilliant work with the screenplay and behind the camera and an ensemble cast that brilliantly brings the bond of the Vandals together, The Bikeriders is the perfect summer movie. Grab your vest, pull up to the theaters, and enjoy the ride. 

The Bikeriders is now in theaters.

Learn more about the film, including how to buy tickets, at the official website.

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