Writer/director Jeff Nichols has built his reputation on popular dramas, such as mystery dramas take refuge, Moody clay, And haunting sci-fi shows Midnight special. In his last work, Cyclists, there’s a lot of focus on the characters, but the atmosphere is old school Scorsese. It makes for an entertaining and slightly maddening combination – but maybe that’s the point?

Brings a star-studded cast Cyclists To life. jodie comer, Butler AustinTom Hardy, Michael Shannon, Mike Feastand Norman Reedus play characters inspired by the people who appear in them Danny Lyon 1967 book Cyclists. As a kind of precursor to the New Journalism movement, in the vein of Hunter S. Thompson and his famous study of the Hells Angels, Leon photographed and interviewed members of the Chicago Outlaws Motorcycle Club (of which he was a part) from the years 1963 to 1967. Although this It may seem a bit dry or cerebral, but Nichols’s script sparkles with attitude, anxiety and raw emotion – even when his characters are too macho to express it.

Cyclists It follows motorcyclists, violent and aimless.

Jodie Comer and Austin Butler fall in love "Cyclists."

Jodie Comer and Austin Butler fall in love in The Bikeriders.
Credit: Focus Features

The story ostensibly revolves around the Vandals MC, a Chicago-based motorcycle gang led by Johnny (Hardy), a blue-collar family man who dreams of being Brando as Brando. Wild. This is not a hidden signal. Nichols shows Johnny watching the movie on a modest black-and-white television, repeating a classic line to make it his own. when Wild He asks: “What are you rebelling against?” Brando’s biker says with a shrug: “What did you get?”

Following this example, Johnny soon becomes an idol to the rebellious youth of the Midwest without a cause, including Benny (Butler), a baby-faced punk who will pick up a fight and take a hit with equal pride. While the scrawny Faist plays Danny, the arrogant photographer, the likes of Reedus, Shannon and Boyd Holbrook portray other bikers, in all their greasy and rugged shades. They make a great group. However, for all the men who make up this film’s ensemble, Cyclists The voice is her heroine: Penny’s conflicted friend-turned-wife, Kathy (forthcoming).

Jodie Comer brings Good guys energy for Cyclists.

The film’s framing device is Lyon’s book, which makes room for the photojournalist to not only get up close to these gruff characters but also allow for Cathy’s distinctive voice-over through the interviews. Flashback scenes offer insight into Johnny and Benny’s memories beyond their purview, but neither man has the inner awareness to voice his motives or deepest desires out loud to Danny—much less with the skill of an exasperated Kathy.

Coming up, with a thick Midwestern accent that would fit right in Roseanne, He embodies the femininity captured in Scorsese’s films: the tough girl who may have grown up a good girl, but can’t deny her attraction to bad boys. Kathy would fit in well with the mob wives Good guys And casino, is well aware of her husband’s actions but is nonetheless disturbed by his arrogance and lawlessness. “I thought I could change it, you know?” You ask, and yes, we know.

Always a bit of an outsider in this male-centric crew, Cathy is both fascinated and repulsed by the Vandal scandals. Her anger and concern are evident in a complex portrayal, anchored by her insightful voice-over. It gives the film a self-awareness and sense of dread, as these reckless men chasing excitement and freedom are surely doomed by their arrogance. Kathy is both a loving historian and a terrifying witness, close not only to Benny’s hot rod but also to his broken body when times are really tough.

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But there’s an arguable downside to the sheer star power of Comer’s performance. As Cathy, she is so captivating, so funny, and so keenly aware that all the men around her fall a little flat.

Tom Hardy and Michael Shannon starred.

Tom Hardy and Austin Butler are in the same gang "Cyclists."

Tom Hardy and Austin Butler belong to the same gang in the movie The Bikeriders.
Credit: Focus Features

Story-wise, it makes sense that the Vandal men wouldn’t be as straightforward as Cathy, who’s been defined from the beginning as a dynamo with a mouth on her. Instead, Nichols relies on scenes of macho confrontations, violence, and posturing to speak for them. Sometimes, this works great. For example, Shannon, who headed many of Nichols’ films including He takes refuge, has a short but powerful role, imbued with the actor’s signature intensity. He doesn’t have much to do on screen, but even in the quiet palette — meant to mimic the compositions found in Leone’s seminal picture book — there’s a fluctuation in Shannon’s energy that defines his biker in an instant.

Hardy similarly thrives, perhaps in part because of his cultural context. The English actor has played a wide range of villainous characters, ranging from the titular theatrical criminal V Bronsonto the incomprehensible and burly Bane The Dark Knight RisesMad Max himself in Mad Max: Fury Roadcocky Eddie Brock and his strange symbiote sidekick Poison, and so on. Basically, if you’re remotely familiar with Hardy’s work, the minute you see him wearing that leather jacket and snarling a little, you know you’re expecting a tough client.

To his credit, Hardy doesn’t use this persona to get close to Johnny. Instead, he enjoys the American accent, with its lazy tongue and nasal growl. There is an easy joy in his depiction of the American model, familiar but not outdated. Johnny echoes Brando with wit and precision, presenting the audience with a romantic tale of rebellion and recklessness that is timeless in its ecstasy. However, Butler can’t relate to Penny in the same way, perhaps because he doesn’t have a defined personality yet, since his two biggest recent roles have been his own. Lacking Elvis the acting So is he chaotic Sand Dunes: Part Two villain.

Austin Butler is fading.

Mike Faist interviewed Jodie Comer on "Cyclists."

Jodie Comer was interviewed by Mike Feast for The Bikeriders.
Credit: Focus Features

Benny, beautiful and seemingly doomed to a bad end, recalls James Dean with his slicked-back hair and devilish sensuality. It’s easy to see why Kathy fell in love with him. But as the film progresses, it becomes difficult to understand why she stays with him. While Butler lavishes his tough guy with a tenderness that radiates from his puppy-dog eyes, his portrayal feels flat next to his more experienced co-stars. when Cyclists He leans on Butler, and his vitality collapses. He’s got the look but lacks the depth needed to embody this tall, dark, silent hero.

And yet, I’m thinking about cyclists, I wonder if the emotional shallowness of her men, who though often annoying juveniles, is exactly Nichols’s point. These are not legendary Henry Hill-style gangsters. They have vanity, but they don’t have the imagination for it. These are men of the moment who live and die in that moment. Although we may be anticipating what comes next, we – like Cathy – hope for the best. Perhaps Nichols intends for us to feel frustrated, eager to slap these men Cher-style with a subtly “Get out of it!” (It’s easy to imagine Cathy gossiping at such an event.)

Maybe the problem is not that Cyclists‘It seems impractical, but that’s my love for it.’ Good guys So passionate that any film that conflicts with his ethos feels inadequate.

Considering it all for what it is – and not comparing it to the films that clearly influenced it – Cyclists Provides a thoughtful portrait of American masculinity and its limitations. Perhaps these men, left alone, were just vague snapshots of bikers lost to time and tragedy. But through Nichols’ creation of Cathy’s character, they are given depth and complexity mixed with humor, heartache, and raw empathy. In the end, these performances and perspective make for a film that is distinctly American, challenges Nichols, and is quite fascinating to watch.

Cyclists It only opens in theaters on June 21.

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