2003, PG-13, 111 min. Directed by Reggie Rock Blythewood. Starring Laurence Fishburne, Derek Luke, Orlando Jones, Djimon Hounsou, Lisa Bonet, Brendan Fehr, Larenz Tate, Meagan Good, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Kid Rock.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Jan. 31, 2003
Neither the riveting boy band documentary nor the riveted gay porn its title seems to suggest, Biker Boyz is instead a late-model knockoff of 2001’s outlaw auto racing epic The Fast and the Furious, reconfigured with a predominantly black cast and a whole lotta two-wheeled saké. The film’s production notes note that the story was inspired by a magazine article (as was Fast and the Furious), and director Blythewood, a fan of the Western genre, has made what he calls a contemporary cowboy melodrama substituting iron horses for the flesh-and-blood variety. The parallels between outlaw bikers and their cowboy counterparts is hardly a new idea – Hunter S. Thompson noted it way back 1966 in his Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gang – but Blythewood cranks up the comparisons by tossing in an Oedipal subtext between stars Fishburne and Antwone Fisher’s Luke and then making the whole roaring, leather-coated mess a fight for the outlaw heavyweight crown of Southern Cali. There’s fun to be had here if you look hard enough – white-trash rapper Kid Rock sports a snoozy, boozy glare that makes him appear as though he just woke up from a nap and wishes he could drive his chugging hog right back to slumberland posthaste, and Orlando Jones, as a shouty, biker preacher-man called, fittingly, Soul Train, has some fine moments hollering lines like “Burn rubber – not your soul!” – but ultimately, Biker Boyz lacks the straightforward narrative rush that made Fast and the Furious a hit with audiences. At times it feels as though there are more subplots and one-shot minor characters in the mix than bikes on the screen, and while there’s no question that all that Tokyo steel and Ducati metal looks exceedingly erotic and fetishized up there on screen, by the time the final petrol-based badboy battle rolls around you’re already tired of all the inter-familial yapping that’s usurped too much time from the main reason to see a film like this: the hideous roadkill wipeouts, a fact that was never ignored by genre king Roger Corman. The convoluted plot has Luke, as the Kid, watching helplessly on the sidelines as his father, mechanic to “King of Cali” biker Smoke (Fishburne), is killed by an errant airborne motorcycle. Cue the “five years later” intertitle and the Kid is putting together his own team, the Biker Boyz, culling the M.C. membership from a very Wild Bunch cast of characters that include a crafty white-boy hustler, a pair of Asian ATV trick riders, and a Latino ’fro disaster. All he needs now is Yul Brynner and he’d be set. As a director, Blythewood seems unable to manage the necessary action set-pieces, and instead we get a lot of guys on gnarly crotch rockets whipping back and forth down dull-as-dust straight-aways. With its punchy-feely, inter-family squabbling, and penchant for ritual and uniform, it’s closer in tone to Luke’s military turn in Antwone Fisher than outlaw AIP classic The Wild Angels.