San Diego's Morning News with Ted and LaDona

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At The Movies With Josh: The Bikeriders

If you want to become the leader of the Vandals motorcycle club, you have to challenge the leader (Tom Hardy). He’ll respond, “Fists or knives?”

The winner of the fight becomes the leader. (This gave me a great idea for how to become the new commissioner of my fantasy football league).

This film is set in Chicago in the ‘60s. I’m going to start this review mentioning the soundtrack, because it’s the best collection of songs I’ve heard on screen in 10 years. You get two songs from the Shangri-Las, as well as Bo Diddley, Dale Hawkins, Them, Cream, Gary U.S. Bonds, Count Five, The Stooges, The Animals, and the underrated garage band The Sonics. They don’t play the Rolling Stones song you hear in the trailer, and they dropped the ball by not playing a Steppenwolf tune (as that’s the quintessential motorcycle group from the ‘60s, even if they’d picked a song other than “Born to be Wild.”). They also played what I think is one of the top 10 ballads in music history – The Fleetwoods “Come Softly to Me.”

So, filmmaker Jeff Nichols (Mud, Loving, Midnight Special) compiled some great songs, as well as a great cast. There is a slight problem with the cast. The two great performances by Jodie Comer (Killing Eve) and Tom Hardy, are a bit hampered by their annoying voices/accents. I think Hardy was trying hard to channel Brando from “The Wild One” (the popular clip of “What are you rebelling against” is shown at one point).

The challenge with this movie is that it is disjointed. It’s got a lot of cool scenes that just don’t quite come together to make it all that interesting. It also hurts that characters are underdeveloped. You also never care about anyone, because they’re all such scum.

Austin Butler, so great as Elvis (and now looking like Eddie Cochran), just doesn’t make you care about his loner character. You also don’t quite understand him.

This is all based on the true story about photojournalist Danny Lyon (Mike Faist) snapping photos and recording the exploits of these greasers, and how their motorcycle group evolved over a period of time. His 1967 book “The Bikeriders” could have been titled “Ride or Die,” although that was taken for a horrible film that came out last month.

My wife loved seeing Norman Reedus (The Walking Dead, and real life motorcycle enthusiast). I loved seeing Michael Shannon (who has been in two previous Nichols’ films), and his character has some funny dialogue. It’s just a shame that most of the script isn’t as interesting as the cast and song selection.

You’re also left with a handful of questions. Regarding the photojournalist, why was he allowed to hang out with them? Why did he want to? And what did Benny (Austin Butler) even do for a living, or his wife? They have a two-story house that bikers occasionally come over to, but…how do they afford it?

This movie was a bit too much of a slow burn, and with a motorcycle film, I wanted to – head out on the highway/looking for adventure, in whatever comes my way!

It also felt like Goodfellas on motorcycles (with a splash of Boogie Nights).

You really needed a better script, so there would be a few characters you actually cared about or understood their motivations.

That being said, I was never bored, and it was actually better than I thought it would be from the commercials.

2 ½ stars out of 5.

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