Biker rove

Will Ferris
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The Bikeriders (15, 116 minutes)

Peter Fonda, eat your heart out.

Seven years on from his last directorial outing, Jeff Nichols has returned with a slick, American story following a beer swigging, leather donning biker gang in the 1960s, first starting out as a supportive haven for lost souls, but, over time, twisting into something uglier as bravado and reputation dominates acceptance and peace.

Based on a book of photographs and inetrviews from the mid sixties, we first meet Kathy (Jodie Comer), who is narrating her past, particularly her time caught in the crosswires between Benny (Austin Butler still struggling to lose his Elvis voice) and his brotherhood biker club The Vandals, led by Johnny (Tom Hardy), who smokes like a chimney and channels Marlon Brando in The Wild One at any given opportunity.

The firm mandate of this leather and denim-clad band of misfits is, like Easy Rider and its ilk, to rebel at all costs.

But rebel at what? That’s the wonderful point at the core of this seemingly simple, but moving story – the motivations of each gang member are far more personal than being a mere middle finger to ‘the man’.

They are outcasts, drawn together but completely lost by their purpose. As the years pass, our leads become totally withdrawn from who they once were, evolving into entirely separate beings with their motivations now warped by time and, perhaps, an absence of hope.

The Bikeriders is a fascinating and evocative character study driven by the depth and star quality one has come to expect from any of its three leads and backed by a sturdy supporting cast including Norman Reedus and a scene-stealing Michael Shannon, whose breathtaking monologue was completed on the very first day of filming.

This is a visually stunning romance – the love of a woman who knows she comes second to brotherhood – and the slow, painful death of an oil-stained American dream.

It’s the kind of movie that would make Martin Scorcese jealous that he didn’t find the script before Nichols. Although, of course, it would have been twice as long.

RATING: 8/10