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Biker Boyz (PG-13)
DreamWorks
Official Site
Director: Reggie Rock Bythewood
Producers: Stephanie Allain, Gina Prince-Bythewood, Erwin Stoff
Written by: Craig Fernandez and Reggie Rock Bythewood
Cast: Lawrence Fishburne, Derek Luke, Orlando Jones, Djimon Hounsou, Lisa Bonet, Brendan Fehr, Larenz Tate, Kid Rock, Salli Richardson, Eriq La Salle, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Kadeem Hardison, Meagan Good, Rick Gonzalez

Rating: out of 5


Who knew that California is a hotbed of black motorcycle club activity, and that you could build an entire movie around it? It doesn’t take much moviegoing experience to see that this particularly story is a western, only mechanized. The Biker Boyz are young turks, newly authorized by the biker council to form their own club. Their leader, Kid (Luke), has always chafed at his father’s (La Salle) seeming deference to Smoke Galloway (Fishburne), who’s known as The King of Cali because he’s the best gunslinger… uh, biker, around. After his father dies in a freak accident, Kid makes it his business to be constantly in Smoke’s face, challenging him for the title. Eventually there’s going to be a showdown, only instead of facing each other across an emptied dusty street, they’ll be side by side, gunning their engines toward a finish line. You can almost hear that music from The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly. Who’s going to win? The heavy-jawed Fishburne, who after all has western experience (as Cowboy Curtis on “PeeWee’s Playhouse”) or The Kid?

Biker Boyz includes a sort of class reunion for “A Different World,” the “Cosby Show” spin-off that starred Bonet and Hardison, and for which Jones, Prince-Bythewood, and Bythewood were writers. It’s too bad that this all-star lineup of black actors couldn’t have been in service of a better project. Still, at least they’re getting work, though it’s hard to believe Eriq La Salle quit “E.R.” for five minutes of screen time in this triumph of style over substance. It must be an official item in Lawrence Fishburne’s post-Matrix contracts that there must be several slo-mo shots of him walking in a long, flowing black leather coat. He was hardly alone: The movie was very easy on the eyes, being full of beautiful black people wearing lots of black leather.

The movie, basically an excuse for a motorcycle music video, is full of real “guy stuff.” There’s lots of trash talking, a couple of genuinely amusing moments, and lots of really stupid-looking ornamented bikes and biker clothes that left me wondering how the riders afford it all. Only two characters—Orlando Jones’s Soul Train and Meagan Good’s Tina (Kid’s love interest) are shown to have actual jobs. Some of the actors here transcend the almost aggressively non-thespian nature of the material. As Anita, Kid’s mom, Vanessa Bell Calloway is very very good. And Orlando Jones just gets more interesting and enjoyable with every role. But Luke (Antwone Fisher) gets stuck playing yet another character who’s young, dumb, and full of cum, which can’t be an acting stretch when you’re barely out of your teens. And Fishburne’s sunglasses did a lot of the acting for him in this outing.

The subject matter, adapted from a New Times article by Michael Gougis, is actually interesting enough to merit a movie. Too bad that movie wasn’t a documentary. Then we could have escaped the risible melodrama tacked onto this film for no discernible reason. Biker Boyz does have a good soundtrack and nice pictures of real bike club members run during the closing credits. If you’re determined to see it, you probably should see it on the big screen, but I just can’t bring myself to give this three stars.

—Roxanne Bogucka

 

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

It’s worth a full-price ticket.

It’s worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...


Mike Doughty



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