The Bikeriders

The Bikeriders Movie Review

“The Bikeriders” is look back at when a motorcycle club was born and how it transformed into something that was out-of-control. Based on book that includes pictures of the original members, this movie creates a bigger picture. This was an exclusive club for the cool cats and the wild kitties. That is, until the engine was revved too fast and it wiped….


Back in the late 1960’s, just outside of Chicago, there is small bar. It is known for being the main hangout for the ‘Vandals’, a local motorcycle club. There are not too many members, and not a ton of rules to being in the club. One rule is that the leader, a soft-spoken guy named Johnny (played by Tom Hardy) is the one who makes the rules. You could challenge Johnny, but the man would ask you this — “Fists or Knives”?


Johnny was tough, but he was level-headed and pretty smart. He had a small core group that he could trust who were always around. That included other riders such as Brucie (played by Damon Herriman) and Wahoo (played by Beau Knapp) and Corky (played by Karl Glusman). There was another member called Cockroach (Played by Emory Cohen), and big tough guy called Zipco (played by Michael Shannon). One other bike rider was from California named — what else — Cal (played by Boyd Holbrook).


But the most laid-back one in the group was Benny (played by Austin Butler). He was the ‘James Dean’ to Johnny’s ‘Marlon Brando’. This group would get together and smoke and drink and ride. But mostly they would ride their big, loud massive Harley bikes. And if they were not riding their bikes, they were talking about them. It was the best place in the world for someone who was bit of an outsider.


Someone who was a real outsider to the motorcycle club was talkative lady named Kathy (played by Jodie Comer). She was invited by a girlfriend to see the club. She was very nervous and not feeling welcome at all. But then she got a look at Benny, and her attitude changed. She was blown away by his good looks and strong, silent type demeanor. And just like that — they were married…


Another ‘outsider’ was a college-type who was getting into photo-journalism. His name was Danny Lyon (played by Mike Faist). He worked his way into the club and became close to Johnny. He would take pictures of the guys in the club and out on rides. Johnny thought it was a good idea to maybe get some of these into a college newspaper, with a story about these were normal guys — not looking to tear up the place. After all, they lived in Chicago, too.


Johnny was thinking he was aging out of the club. He was married, with children — and worked at a trucking job. He thought that Benny would be the best person that everyone in the group would listen to. The club was getting more and more riders from all around. There were some other groups from other cities who wanted to join up with the ‘Vandals’. They admired the club for sticking to the rules, and how Johnny was fair-minded but tough.


Benny has no desire to become any type of leader. Kathy knows that Benny is too much of a hot-head to ever give anyone a chance to explain out their side of the story. She was getting interviewed by Danny Lyon, because he had the idea to turn all of his photographs into a big picture book. Lots of people came from all around to ask to get into ‘Vandals’. One guy came and was also from California.


Just like Cal, this other guy was from the West Coast. He went by the name of Funny Sonny (played by Norman Reedus). He really enjoyed the time that he spent with ‘Vandals’ motorcycle club. He explained that a different club in L.A. sent him out to the Chicago to whack Cal. That is because Cal left the group and did not turn in his colors. Funny Sonny decided that these guys here were too much fun, and he was quitting the other club too!


There was one young guy who really wanted to be part of the ‘Vandals’. Nobody knew his real name, so they called him The Kid (played by Toby Wallace) Johnny kicked him out because he showed no loyalty to his other friends. He went away for a while, but then later ‘The Kid’ came back. He put out a challenge to Johnny for the role of leader. Johnny had been through this many times before. It was always “Fists or Knives”? But Johnny didn’t know that you don’t bring a Knife to a Gun Fight…


After Johnny was gone, many of the original club members slowly backed away from the ‘Vandals’. They were now ‘Under New Management’. They had newer members, and members from other clubs had a meaner streak. They found out that being tough and mean would be better if they would actually be on the wrong side of the law. Benny was up to his limit, and Kathy was talking about moving to Florida. Danny Lyons had graduated and he had interest in the photo book he was talking about. But they wanted a story to go along with the book.


So what was that story? It was everything that Kathy recorded when interviewed by Danny. It was a very humble start for a small group of ‘Bikeriders’ who wanted nothing to more than to ride and be left alone. But the motorcycle club turned into a criminal gang. The current makeup of the gang is responsible for a much of the crime reported in the Midwest. It started with the best of intentions. But at its heart, the ‘Vandals’ was a club that was “Born to be Wild”…



“The Bikeriders” takes a real story of the founding of the motorcycle club, and it examines how it was eventually changed into a ruthless gang of criminals. Based on the book of pictures, taken by the real Danny Lyon, and the interviews of the real ‘Kathy’ — Jeff Nichols turns this into an in-depth look at group dynamics and how things can turn bad. It is a realistic vision of the late 1960’s through the 1970’s.


As for the performances – there is no way to top these main three: Austin Butler, Tom Hardy, and Jodie Comer. Butler simmers with energy while keeping a look of being low-key. Hardy is superb with being the guy in charge, but knowing that his grasp is getting weaker every day. Comer has a perfectly executed Midwest accent, when the story needs to be told – there is no better way to explain it all.


“The Bikeriders” should be a must-see for anyone who loves the open road, or just appreciates the best actors being put into the driver’s seat. This one will “get your motor runnin’”…


The Bikeriders

Written and Directed by: Jeff Nichols
Based on “The Bikeriders” by: Danny Lyon
Starring: Austin Butler, Jodie Comer, Tom Hardy, Michael Shannon, Mike Faist, Norman Reedus
Cinematography: Adam Stone
Edited by: Julie Monroe
Music by: David Wingo
Distributed by: Focus Features
Release date: June 21, 2024
Length: 116 minutes
MPAA rating: R for language throughout, violence, some drug use and brief sexuality
Genre: Drama


Rating contributor: JMcNaughton tmc

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