Biker Boyz (2003)
Director: Reggie Rock Blythewood
Starring: Laurence Fishburne, Derek Luke, Orlando Jones
Release date: January 31 (US). The omens aren’t good, not with that ‘z’ in Boyz. Plus, it’s setting up an obvious joke that I shall steadfastly refuse to deploy. May contain crotch-rockets, belly-shovers, giggle-gas and spoilers…
It’s all in the title really but I didn’t check a synopsis when compiling the list; if it was on or around the date – bam! – on the list. I did worry when I first clocked that title, the possibility of it being ever so slightly gay, but having arrived from Lovefilm I noted the souped-up motorbike disc art. Against all odds, I was initially engaged by the opening hand-held camera, roving among the various biker clans and into a pumping, bass-filled warehouse. Then Smoke (Laurence Fishburne) and his crew arrive, The Black Knights (which made me think of comedy combo The Barron Knights – “he was keen, off up the high street like Barry Sheen…”) and they turn out to be a rather well drilled and choreographed set of motybikerlists. Soul Train (Orlando Jones) let’s us know how things are gonna roll; “Burn rubber, not your soul…” And the racing begins… with tragic consequences.
Kid (Derek Luke) doesn’t want to be a learner-biker anymore, otherwise known as a ‘Prospect’. His dad, Slick Will (Erik La Salle) is kind of Smoke’s pit-man, his mechanic. Big pals too, these two guys go back a long way. But on this souped-up night, a night like any other, a freak accident sees a flying motorcycle (it can’t literally fly, that would be cheating) pulverise Slick Will and traumatise Kid. Quite why Willy stands staring at this bike hurtling towards him like a steel horse from Hell is another matter entirely, particularly as everyone else in the vicinity scatters for safety. Perhaps it was the thought of another 100 minutes stretching out before him. That was rude of me, sorry.
Kid splits the biker scene for several months and who can blame him, eh. But he cannot resist the lure of the old rrrrmmm-rrrrmmm; when he returns he wants Smoke’s crown, or lid, as they say, his helmet – he wants to be the ‘King Of Cali’. Kid also blames Smoke for his old man’s death. I can see that, Smoke was racing and it was his opponent who ‘horizontally parked’ but blame him if it makes yer feel better, munchkin. Kid ‘proves’ himself in a rigged race and confronts Smoke who reacts rather tersely; “You wanna piece of me?” Kid does indeed and sets out to prove himself further, setting up his own motorcycle club with a couple of mates, Stuntman (Brendan Fehr) and Primo (Rick Gonzalez). Guess what they call themselves? Yeh. Why not ‘Steel Horsez From Hell’? I mean, Biker Boyz? May as well call yerselves ‘Fairy Wheelz’. Anyhow, all is then set for a final confrontation between Smoke and Kid. Bring it on!
Biker Boyz (you can’t possibly know how hard it is for me to type that ‘z’), sad to report, is dull. I freely admit the ‘racing movie’ genre isn’t for me, no racer so far has ever managed to engage my simple noggin. The story is usually secondary and it’s all about the flashy machines whizzing around the screen. And that’s fine, there’s an audience for it. Inspired by a magazine article on real underground racing clubs, Biker Boyz wants to be about more than just racing, it wants to show you the people behind the racing. Director Blythewood never gets close to them. We either see these guys and gals at a race meet or a party, with all the posturing that entails. I’m expecting to see who these people are at home and at work, real people with real names, not nicks. I think it would’ve been interesting to see what Smoke, Motherland (Djimon Honsou) or Soul Train did for a living. It would’ve been interesting to find out what drives these blokes to go out racing each night, avoiding the law – is it for the money, the thrill… both? Tell me about ‘nitro’ and show me what goes into tuning an individual bike. Y’know? I’m told Smoke’s hog is the best and no one can beat it. Why? What’s it got the others haven’t (Fishburne!)? Don’t worry, I ask these questions of most racing movies and I’m only asking because there is scope for a good film.
Strangely, and you would’ve thought this is essential to get right in a racing motorbikes film, the races are boring. It’s two bikes, right, and they go very fast down a straight road. Every race is the same; the visor comes down, they stare resolutely ahead at the road, they glance at each other, they roar off, they each pull ahead of the other, the ‘nitro’ button gets pressed – whoooosh! – neck and neck to the finish line… someone wins. Cash gets handed over along with the loser’s lid. If you think they’re saving it up for the grand finale, think again. These scenes are only notable for when Smoke is involved and he sees an imaginary tube all the way to the finish line. That’s his focus, see. Images of his life outside racing swirl around the walls of the translucent tube; he blanks the moving pictures because they don’t matter, nothing does. All he can see is the finish line.
Interspersed amongst the racing are some of the most insipid drama beats you can imagine. Watching Kid butt heads with Smoke wears thin fairly quickly, even with the introduction of a ‘twist’ to spice things up. You’ll probably see it coming. I didn’t, I actually thought while watching it ‘they wouldn’t dare…’ Yeh, they dare. When Kid gets busted by the cops for illegal racing his mother, Anita (Vanessa Bell Calloway) does that old chestnut routine on his ass; “Promise me you will never race again!” And Kid duly promises. And Kid duly races again. He resists for awhile until someone insults the memory of his father. Oddly, Anita’s opposition simply fades out of the film. The rest of the drama is biker based, with recurring characters Wood (Larenz Tate) and Dogg (Kid Rock) challenging The Black Knights at every opportunity. But if they were supposed to be the bad guys I wasn’t feeling it. They’re bikers, no different from the others. If the focus was on Wood and Dogg then Smoke would seem to be the interloper to us. No good guys, no bad guys, just a bunch of duelling bikers.
Acting… I dunno, help me out. Is it decent for this kind of movie? Fishburne is always watchable but nothing special here. The scenes I enjoyed most were between Luke, Gonzalez and Fehr, something natural about those guys together. Also, the stuff at home with Luke and Calloway is nice as well. Meagan Good is Kid’s girlfriend, Tina. She’s a looker but she lost me early on, telling Kid she doesn’t date ‘Prospects’. Bit shallow, that. Good is nothing more than eye candy, no acting required. Lisa Bonet as Queenie looks as bored being in this as I was watching it. The role is barely worth turning up for. Orlando Jones is cool enough but Djimon Honsou’s character Motherland disappears halfway through the movie. I’m struggling, you can tell, right…
What Blythewood seems to be telling us is that these bikers are intrinsically good people, even Dogg, who lends Kid his motorcycle after causing him to crash during a race and bust his machine up. Evading the law they may be but the bikers have a strict code of ethics. When they’ve parked up their bikes for the day and dropped the posturing, they are you and me. So that’s all right then. But it’s a pity we don’t get to see that.
Biker Boyz? Biker boyz-zzzzz… Darn, I did the joke.
I’m giving ‘em 1.5 Evels out of 5.
ThereWolf, June 2012