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Dustin Putman

Dustin's Review
Biker Boyz (2003)
1 Stars

Directed by Reggie Rock Bythewood
Cast: Derek Luke, Laurence Fishburne, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Brendan Fehr, Larenz Tate, Meagan Good, Kid Rock, Orlando Jones, Lisa Bonet, Djimon Hounsou, Tyson Beckford, Salli Richardson, Dion Basco, Kadeem Hardison, Terrence Dashon Howard, Rick Gonzalez, Eriq La Salle
2003 – 111 minutes
Rated: Rated PG-13 (for violence, language, and sexual situations).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, February 1, 2003.

As with 2001's "The Fast and the Furious" and 2002's "Blue Crush," "Biker Boyz" is a sports drama based on a real-life newspaper article (this one written by Michael Gougis). Just because the basis of the story is purported to be fact, however, does not mean that this big screen adaptation is any less silly and lame than if it were fictional. Directed by the curiously-named Reggie Rock Bythewood, "Biker Boyz" aims to be a floor-rattling piece of pulp excitement while delivering an ensemble of unconventionally real characters in a serious plotline--and fails at all of the above.

The topic is motorcycle racing. The place is Los Angeles. And night in and night out, a gaggle of motorcycle gangs compete with each other, the winner receiving whatever the wager consists of. Mere months after he saw his mechanic father (Eriq La Salle) die in a freak accident, 18-year-old Kid (Derek Luke) plunges headfirst into the world of motorcycle racing, the most taunting and unsurpassed group being the Black Knights, headed by longtime participant Smoke (Laurence Fishburne). In an attempt to belong somewhere and prove that he has what it takes to be the best, he partners up with fellow newbies Stuntman (Brendan Fehr) and Wood (Larenz Tate) to begin hustling. A set of roadblocks appear before Kid when his mother, Anita (Vanessa Bell Calloway), both finds out he has been racing behind her back, and divulges in a deep secret she has kept from him since he was born.

From the look of the trailers and television ads for "Biker Boyz," one would expect it to be nothing more than a down-and-dirty B-movie with motorcycle stunts and fast-paced action galore. In actuality, it is a mere soap opera with ludicrous dramatic overtures set around an underground sport that fails to even once get your heart pumping beyond its normal rate. The racing material, while prevalent, has been statically edited by Terilyn A. Shropshire and drearily lit by cinematographers Greg Gardiner, Amelia Vincent, and Reid Russell, to such a degree that it is more snooze-inducing than adrenaline-fueled.

"The Fast and the Furious," a car-racing flick that is this picture's obvious inspiration, at least knew it was trashy and took this knowledge to deliver one genuinely exciting action sequence after the next. There was an energy to the proceedings that, if not making the movie necessarily good, at least distracted the viewer from seeing through its paper-thin veneer. "Biker Boyz," however, has loftier aspirations, and is only a bigger wipeout because of it.

Attempts at character-building moments are superficial, at best, wasting large chunks of precious screen time on what amounts to a who's who of the Cliche Handbook. Save for an effectively subtle scene in which it is discovered that one of Smoke's gang, Soul Train (an understated Orlando Jones), makes his living as a respected lawyer, the plot developments are laid on thick and sappy. There is a glimmer of something more in the close but troubled dynamic between Kid and his mother, but the twist involved in their struggle would be better suited for "One Life to Live" rather than a movie called "Biker Boyz." Meanwhile, the subplot involving the middle-aged Smoke's reluctance to move onto the next stage of his life is filled with indifference.

Derek Luke, who made a breakthrough debut in 2002's "Antwone Fisher," has undeniable charisma, but one would be more adept to see it in the aforementioned film than here. As Smoke, Laurence Fishburne (1999's "The Matrix") adds star power and a level of dignity to his role, quite a feat considering the overwrought material. The best performance, easily, is given by Vanessa Bell Calloway (2001's "The Brothers"), poignantly real as Anita, Kid's mother. The rest of the cast is mostly window-dressing: Lisa Bonet (2000's "High Fidelity") is Queenie, Smoke's sometimes-lover; Brendan Fehr (2001's "The Forsaken") is Kid's friend and partner Stuntman; Meagan Good (1997's "Eve's Bayou") shows promise as Kid's sweet-faced girlfriend, Tina; and Kadeem Hardison (2002's "Showtime"), Djimon Hounsou (2002's "The Four Feathers"), and singer Kid Rock (2001's "Joe Dirt") make little impression.

Written with too heavy a hand by director Reggie Rock Bythewood and Craig Fernandez, "Biker Boyz" is so muddled in melodramatic theatrics that it dulls down the action setpieces, while the action setpieces are so subdued on their own that the melodrama is just the final nail in the coffin of a movie with little to redeem it. The corny and highly forgettable final product is, one would doubt, what anyone had in mind.
© 2003 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman