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  Biker Boyz Wheels Deals
Year: 2003
Director: Reggie Rock Bythewood
Stars: Laurence Fishburne, Derek Luke, Orlando Jones, Djimon Hounsou, Lisa Bonet, Brendan Fehr, Larenz Tate, Kid Rock, Rick Gonzalez, Meagan Good, Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Dante Basco, Dion Basco, Titus Welliver, Eriq La Salle
Genre: Drama, ActionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Smoke (Laurence Fishburne) is the so-called "King of Cali" thanks to his unbeatable way with a motorcycle, he is the fastest man around and has held that prestigious title among his fellow bikers for years now. Every so often, there will be someone who tries to take that title and his crown (actually a customised helmet), and every time they fail, however there is one teenager who believes he has what it takes to usurp this leader. He is Kid (Derek Luke), whose father (Eriq La Salle) is one of Smoke's best friends, but that means little to this upstart who knows he will have his chance to succeed. That is until a terrible accident occurs during a race, and his father is thrown and killed...

Biker Boyz was inspired by an article on a real-life phenomenon, that of African-American biker gangs and what they got up to: many were impressed by director Reggie Rock Bythewood and his genuine interest in them and agreed to help out behind the scenes to create as authentic a milieu as possible. Or that was the idea, as once this was released, it was greeted with indifference at best, and outright derision at worst, as if Hollywood had once again taken an interesting tale and turned it into the most formulaic end result possible. It was the same old story, and perhaps the problem was that this was what it was, an old story with trappings that did not come across as too polished.

There was not much difference between this and your average Roger Corman action drama from the nineteen-fifties, it had simply been updated with an almost immediately post-The Fast and the Furious makeover to spruce up what might have been more satisfying as a documentary - there were photographs of the actual black bikers in the end credit crawl, and you couldn't help but wonder if their life stories were more interesting than what Bythewood (as co-writer too) had concocted. It the yarn about the young hero trying to overthrow his tyrant father that had had the dust blown off its pages and presented as something brand new, when it was a case of old wine, new bottles.

Not helping was that the father figure wasn't a particularly unpleasant man. Smoke, for it was he, does everything in his power to dissuade Kid from taking up illegal street racing because he knows how dangerous it can be, and you can see his point especially in light of his good buddy bashing his brains out in a crash within the first ten minutes. But Kid won't listen, and while Luke was not exactly obnoxious, he wasn't too sympathetic either since he left the impression of misplaced arrogance and stubborn stupidity rather than bravery and fortitude. The fact that this is building up to the big race promised in those early stages did not alter the feeling you would really appreciate seeing Kid beaten to put him in his place, but he’s not interested in that, merely his obsession with proving himself.

As Biker Boyz plodded on, a cycle developed, not a motorcycle but a narrative one of macho face-offs and boasting, the occasional racing sequence, and a little character business to show these guys were not all bad. There was not much more to it, and if that action had been more impressive this might have been easier to watch, but as it was there was only so much you could do on a bike without getting ridiculous, which is what the Vin Diesel show had pulled off time and again to huge rewards. Here, it was repetitive and did a disservice to what was an intriguing subculture by sticking it with a hackneyed Arthurian legend-style drama, and despite the moments of humour, they weren't funny and purely served to demonstrate how fatally seriously this was taking itself, which drained much of the enjoyment out of it. Certainly, have faith in your characters, but there was an unearned sense of occasion here that you didn't quite buy. Music by Camara Kambon.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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