Universal Studios

July 4

It has always been a difficult – correction, make that near impossible – proposition to make a movie and/or television series that centres around an outlaw motorcycle club that manages to capture the true nature of its subject matter.

This is mainly due to the secrecy surrounding most aspects of an outlaw motorcycle club’s inner workings, with the only people who know the truth of what goes on either still involved with the lifestyle or separated from it but still bound by the code of honour that permeates the very fabric of such clubs existence.

That and the fear of reprisals should any current or former OMC member share such knowledge.

Even the most popular recounting of the bikers’ lifestyle in Sons Of Anarchy – which had founding Hells Angel Sonny Barger as a consultant – got it wrong on a number of occasions, the most glaring being the amount of influence afforded Jax Teller’s mother within the club plus the members continued game breaker of wearing their colours in cars and other forms of transport grounded by more than two wheels.

So when I first heard about Tom Hardy’s new movie – and I LOVE Tom Hardy – The Bikeriders I was sceptical to say the least, but still hopeful enough to take a look.

Described in the promo blurb as a movie “set in the 1960’s that follows the Vandals M.C, a Chicago outlaw motorcycle club as seen through the eyes of its members and their families as the club evolves over the course of a decade from a surrogate family for local outcasts into a violent organised crime syndicate”, The Bikeriders is actually inspired by a 1967 photo book of the same name by Danny Lyon that depicts the lives of the Outlaws MC.

Opening with a lone figure known simply as Benny (Austin Butler) sat at a bar quietly enjoying his beer, The Bikeriders wastes little time getting down and dirty as two locals confront Benny and tell him in no uncertain terms he is not welcome in the bar with his colours on.

And club members are supposed to be the intimidating ones?

From the moment Benny replies “you’d have to kill me to get this jacket off” it is clear the writers of this movie have done their homework and after showing the initial stages of the ensuing battle they quickly settle in to the meat and potatoes of the storyline as narrated in flashbacks by central character Kathy (Jodie Comer).

It breezes through her introduction to the Vandals and her resulting walk on the wild side as she spontaneously gives her spirit to life on the open road by jumping on the back of Benny’s bike and traverses a 10 year period that covers the birth of the Vandals and the many ups and downs of life inside an outlaw motorcycle club through to the realistic conclusion that sees…. Well, you’ll just have to watch for yourself.

Initially started by Hardy’s Johnny – himself a married man with two daughters, the Vandals enter the world as a group of twelve friends with a common interest in motorcycles and ultimately grow into a formidable force with chapters spread across the country, but it is the attention to detail and depth of the character arcs that best serves this movie.

With members names like Cockroach (“coz I like to eat bugs”), Funny Sonny, Wahoo, Brucie, Cal from California and Zipco the Vandals are a tight assortment of one-percenters with one common denominator.

They would die for the patch they were proudly on their backs.

When asked why the men joined a motorcycle club, Brucie replies,”these guys don’t belong nowhere else, so they belong together.” Which pretty much sums it up.

The Bikeriders purrs along at an exciting and engaging pace, with writers also resisting the temptation to stereotype the behaviour and extracurricular activities of the Vandals members. There is little gratuitous or unnecessary violence, although when push comes to shove and peace becomes an option quickly removed from the table it comes in short, sharp bursts of aggression that are not only vital to the storyline, but also an accurate portrayal of the lengths any man – outlaw motorcycle club member or not – would go to in order to protect himself and the things he loves.

The introduction of The Kid (Toby Wallace) provides an interesting and ultimately destructive side story that actually taught me something about motorcycle clubs. Not that you will ever know what that is because if I had to figure it out for myself then you sure as shit have to as well!

His pathway from street thug to the upper offices of the Vandals is handled with respect and provides just one of many layers that are pivotal to the impact and sense of danger lurking around every corner and roar of a V-Twin engine that separates The Bikeriders from the growing pack of pretenders wanting to live life in the naughty corner and those who revel in it.

At times brutal, others touching, this is a movie for everyone – and I’m guessing there are many – who has ever wondered what it felt like to ride with the wind in your hair and the support of a brotherhood of like-minded individuals who would, without hesitation, lay down their lives to defend yours.

It’s a movie for the outcasts, the dreamers, the rebels, and the free that offers a rare glimpse into a world that has to be lived to be understood.

Even though members of the Vandals still jumped inside a cage (i.e car) with their colours on…