Entertaining but empty: Jeff Nichols’ ‘The Bikeriders’ is beautiful, but lacking depth

Director Jeff Nichols (Mud, Take Shelter) is back after an eight-year hiatus from feature films. The Bikeriders proves to be one of his best-looking films yet—but it’s not one of his best.

It’s a good movie. I enjoyed it. But it never really gets under the surface of what it’s trying to portray, that being the onset of biker-gang culture in the ’60s. He captures the look and style, but his screenplay (based on a photobook of the same name) feels a little too episodic rather than epic.

Maybe it needed to be about an hour longer. That wouldn’t have been a bad thing; being in the presence of characters like Johnny (Tom Hardy), the leader of a biker gang called the Vandals, and moody rider Benny (Austin Butler, always doing good work) screams for more depth.

In the end, the characters are just sketches. Maybe that was the intent—to provide sketch portrayals of images from an infamous photobook? I don’t know, but the whole thing left me mildly entertained, but feeling a little empty.

The film is garnering comparisons to some of Martin Scorsese’s works like Goodfellas. For me, the unfortunate Scorsese comparison is that Jodie Comer—an actress I love—adapts an accent that sounds way too much like the awful one Joe Pesci used in Casino, one of my least-favorite Scorsese films. There were times when I just couldn’t get past the grating sound of it.

Still, The Bikeriders is a decent, somewhat entertaining movie. It could’ve been great.

Maybe we will get a director’s cut that fleshes things out a bit.

YouTube video