So it was really only a matter of time that a movie like Biker Boyz would be released, ripe to cash in on the fad of glammed-up, nitrous-powered high-speed bike racing. And judging from all the ads for Biker Boyz, it seemed like the motorbike fans would get just what they wanted: a Fast and the Furious on two wheels--plenty of explosions, crashes, tits, and dumb as a rock dialogue. I expected it so much that I was actually looking forward to that kind of experience with this film, but that's far from what the movie is.
The story follows Kid (Derek Luke, aka Antwone Fisher), a young black man whose father (Eriq LaSalle) is the star mechanic and apparent omega male to top racer Smoke (Laurence Fishburne), the "king of Cali." When his dad is killed by a flying motorcycle during a race gone awry, Kid blames Smoke, and begins training to be the best racer on the set. He recruits a band of misfits to form a gang of his own called the Biker Boyz (which includes a hilarious Filipino duo on four-wheelers). All this build-up to confront Smoke explodes when Kid learns a huge secret kept by his mother, which only drives him further into his mania. Ultimately, Kid has to clash with Smoke, and -- by that point in the film -- you can pretty much see the ending coming as clearly as the budget "finish line" metaphor at the end of the movie. I'll give you a clue: "Burn rubber, not your soul."
As you can see, this ain't exactly adrenaline-fueled inanity. It's worse; Biker Boyz chooses to go Singleton on us, delivering softball messages about respecting your woman and dads taking responsibility for their illegitimate kids intercut with footage of cool bike stunts. It's touchy-feely without any real substance. The reason why Singleton's movies work (when they work) is because the messages come through young black men in crisis. Kid in this movie isn't in any kind of crisis; the dude lives in a nice house in the 'burbs. His only problem is that he's riding really fast on his motorcycle, and his mom thinks its dangerous -- not quite as harrowing as the hardcore reality of, say, Boyz N the Hood.
The film, however, does look good for the most part -- thanks to some nice handheld camerawork and unusual visual styling throughout, even if some segments do look very music video-ish (like one montage of Kid and his gang collecting money on the hustling circuit). Unfortunately, the acting is not as impressive. Laurence Fishburne has the best pick of the stale dialogue, but still seems to wince throughout. Meanwhile, everyone else seems to be delivering one hackneyed line after another, which could be much to blame for the budget performances. You could also blame the filmmaker's need to employ the minimal talents of big celebrities like Kid Rock, who comes off as neither tough nor a biker in his tough biker role.
Biker Boyz is an unfortunate case of mistaken identity -- or what some of us like to call Coyote Ugly syndrome. It's a movie that's marketed a certain way, but in reality is something entirely, disappointingly different. As little as we need another high-octane, turn-off-the brain action film with races and explosions, we need a biker movie with a heart even less. Honestly, I would gladly have given this film 2 1/2 stars if I could've had fewer tears and more crazy motorcycle stunts and crashes. That could've at least been spectacularly bad instead of just plain mediocre.
Not much more to redeem the Boyz DVD, which includes the usual making of featurette followed by endless deleted scenes. How about a director's cut where they delete even more?
And one for our homies.
Run time: 110 mins
In Theaters: Friday 31st January 2003
Box Office USA: $21.7M
Distributed by: Dreamworks Distribution LLC
Production compaines: DreamWorks Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 23%
Fresh: 21 Rotten: 70
IMDB: 4.5 / 10
Director: Reggie Rock Bythewood
Starring: Laurence Fishburne as Smoke, Derek Luke as Kid, Orlando Jones as Soul Train, Djimon Hounsou as Motherland, Lisa Bonet as Queenie, Salli Richardson-Whitfield as Half & Half, Vanessa Bell Calloway as Anita
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