The Bikeriders: A Motorbike Epic

The Bikeriders: A Motorbike Epic

The Bikeriders (15, 116 mins)

Verdict: Wheelie wheelie good

Rating:

Federer: Twelve Final Days (12A, 88 mins)

Verdict: Swiss love, Swiss love

Rating:

As hard as it might be, try to picture The Godfather as the story of a motorbike gang: a fraternity of tough guys more than willing to break society’s codes of behaviour, yet hidebound by their own. 

That, in essence, is The Bikeriders, a compelling drama that doesn’t hide its debt to great mob pictures, but is tremendously engaging in its own right (and boasts a glorious 1960s soundtrack).

It even has a GoodFellas-style narrator in the form of Kathy, superbly played by Jodie Comer, whose native Liverpool accent takes a dive to the bottom of Lake Michigan. 

The Bikeriders: A Motorbike Epic

As hard as it might be, try to picture The Godfather as the story of a motorbike gang: a fraternity of tough guys more than willing to break society’s codes of behaviour, yet hidebound by their own

It even has a GoodFellas-style narrator in the form of Kathy, superbly played by Jodie Comer , whose native Liverpool accent takes a dive to the bottom of Lake Michigan

It even has a GoodFellas-style narrator in the form of Kathy, superbly played by Jodie Comer , whose native Liverpool accent takes a dive to the bottom of Lake Michigan

Surfacing in its place are the broad Chicago vowels of Kathy, a blue-collar girl with a weakness for a pretty face, who at a rowdy bar one night in the mid-1960s falls for the maddeningly enigmatic but impossibly handsome Benny (Austin Butler) ¿ and marries him just five weeks later

Surfacing in its place are the broad Chicago vowels of Kathy, a blue-collar girl with a weakness for a pretty face, who at a rowdy bar one night in the mid-1960s falls for the maddeningly enigmatic but impossibly handsome Benny (Austin Butler) — and marries him just five weeks later

Surfacing in its place are the broad Chicago vowels of Kathy, a blue-collar girl with a weakness for a pretty face, who at a rowdy bar one night in the mid-1960s falls for the maddeningly enigmatic but impossibly handsome Benny (Austin Butler) — and marries him just five weeks later.

That, effectively, means marrying into the Vandals, whose chain-smoking founder and de facto godfather is Johnny (Tom Hardy), a husband and father himself even though the only family that seems to matter to him comprises oily blokes in denim and leathers. 

They include Zipco (Michael Shannon), Cal (Boyd Holbrook) and Brucie (Damon Herriman), but Benny is the one Johnny has earmarked as his successor.

For all his macho menace, the leader of the pack is somewhat in thrall to the younger man, regarding him like a favoured son. As Kathy notes in the voiceover: ‘Johnny always wanted what Benny had, to not care about nothin’.’ 

Actually, Benny does care about Kathy, in his laconic way, but not enough to give up riding with the Vandals, even when she begs him to, even when he has his foot broken by a couple of goons in a bar who take offence at his jacket with its club insignia, his so-called ‘colours’.

The narrative unfolds episodically, linked by the stories Kathy tells to a journalist (Mike Faist), who chronicles life with the Vandals from 1965 to 1973.

The film’s writer-director, Jeff Nichols, got the idea from a similar exercise by photo-journalist Danny Lyon, from which he has woven an entirely credible sub-culture, populated by characters who, as one of them says, ‘don’t belong nowhere else so they belong together’.

Whether it’s just in Nichols’ fictional account, or based on fact, Johnny decided to form the Vandals while watching Marlon Brando on TV, in The Wild One. Either way, it rings true. 

But every now and then (again, in further homage to those mighty mob movies), someone questions his right to be boss. ‘Fists or knives,’ he says wearily, to each leadership challenge.

Hardy, too, gives a wonderful performance, and how gratifying it is that two of the three leads are British, in a film so comprehensively American. 

Mind you, there’s a universality about its theme of belonging, and there are truths for us all in Johnny’s ineloquent philosophising.

‘You can give everything you got to a thing, and it’s still just gunna do what it’s gunna do,’ he grunts.

That, effectively, means marrying into the Vandals, whose chain-smoking founder and de facto godfather is Johnny (Tom Hardy), a husband and father himself even though the only family that seems to matter to him comprises oily blokes in denim and leathers

That, effectively, means marrying into the Vandals, whose chain-smoking founder and de facto godfather is Johnny (Tom Hardy), a husband and father himself even though the only family that seems to matter to him comprises oily blokes in denim and leathers

They include Zipco (Michael Shannon), Cal (Boyd Holbrook) and Brucie (Damon Herriman), but Benny is the one Johnny has earmarked as his successor

They include Zipco (Michael Shannon), Cal (Boyd Holbrook) and Brucie (Damon Herriman), but Benny is the one Johnny has earmarked as his successor

For all his macho menace, the leader of the pack is somewhat in thrall to the younger man, regarding him like a favoured son. As Kathy notes in the voiceover: 'Johnny always wanted what Benny had, to not care about nothin''

For all his macho menace, the leader of the pack is somewhat in thrall to the younger man, regarding him like a favoured son. As Kathy notes in the voiceover: ‘Johnny always wanted what Benny had, to not care about nothin”

Alternatively, you can give everything you’ve got to a thing, and make it answer to your will and your genius. 

Which brings us to Federer: Twelve Final Days, Asif Kapadia’s latest documentary, following his dazzling films about Ayrton Senna, Amy Winehouse and Diego Maradona.

Critically speaking, that short list tells you everything you need to know about Kapadia’s film (co-directed by Joe Sabia), which follows the great Roger Federer from the announcement of his retirement in 2022 to his valedictory tennis tournament at the O2 Arena less than a fortnight later.

His previous subjects were all tormented or tragic or both, whereas the Swiss maestro is well-adjusted, with a family (supportive parents, lovely wife, two sets of twins) that seems like a kiss from the gods.

All of that burnishes the Federer legend, and personally I yield to nobody in my admiration of him as a sportsman: sitting on Centre Court watching him win Wimbledon will always be one of the privileges of my former life as a sports writer.

But it makes him an insipid choice for a behind-the-scenes documentary that is really just an 88-minute rhapsody… enjoyable enough, if you revere the lachrymose tennis icon (who, spoiler alert, did a fair bit of sobbing in those 12 days), but still too adoring by half.

The BIKERIDERS is in cinemas now. Federer: Twelve Final Days is on Prime Video.

Which brings us to Federer: Twelve Final Days, Asif Kapadia's latest documentary, following his dazzling films about Ayrton Senna, Amy Winehouse and Diego Maradona

Which brings us to Federer: Twelve Final Days, Asif Kapadia’s latest documentary, following his dazzling films about Ayrton Senna, Amy Winehouse and Diego Maradona

Critically speaking, that short list tells you everything you need to know about Kapadia's film (co-directed by Joe Sabia), which follows the great Roger Federer from the announcement of his retirement in 2022 to his valedictory tennis tournament at the O2 Arena less than a fortnight later

Critically speaking, that short list tells you everything you need to know about Kapadia’s film (co-directed by Joe Sabia), which follows the great Roger Federer from the announcement of his retirement in 2022 to his valedictory tennis tournament at the O2 Arena less than a fortnight later

Bridesmaids meets Jaws in the shark movie of the summer 

Something In The Water (15, 86 mins)

Verdict: Fin-tastic

Rating:

Whatever the weather might suggest, not to mention the calendar, nothing confirms the arrival of midsummer like a shark movie, and now there are two that demand your attention — both with proper bite (see Also Showing for second review).

The British-made Something In The Water has a wonderfully unambiguous title yet begins, counter-intuitively, in an urban alleyway, where Meg (the excellent Hiftu Quasem) and her girlfriend Kayla (Natalie Mitson, also terrific) are subjected to a vicious homophobic attack.

Meg is badly beaten up and left with post-traumatic stress, which brings the relationship to an end. 

But a year later the estranged pair are forced together by the impending wedding, on an idyllic Caribbean island, of a mutual friend, Lizzie (Lauren Lyle), a northerner and a bit of a princess. 

Whatever the weather might suggest, not to mention the calendar, nothing confirms the arrival of midsummer like a shark movie, and now there are two that demand your attention ¿ both with proper bite (see Also Showing for second review)

Whatever the weather might suggest, not to mention the calendar, nothing confirms the arrival of midsummer like a shark movie, and now there are two that demand your attention — both with proper bite (see Also Showing for second review)

It's no wonder the locations are exotically beautiful as the film was shot in the Dominican Republic over six weeks

It’s no wonder the locations are exotically beautiful as the film was shot in the Dominican Republic over six weeks

Hayley Easton Street's film is snappily written by Clarke, who says that ironically the idea sprang from a love of sharks, and in particular Jaws, which coincidentally was released 49 years ago yesterday

Hayley Easton Street’s film is snappily written by Clarke, who says that ironically the idea sprang from a love of sharks, and in particular Jaws, which coincidentally was released 49 years ago yesterday

Two other pals, Cam (Nicole Rieko Setsuko) and Ruth (Ellouise Shakespeare-Hart) complete the group of mates, although the dynamic is now decidedly wobbly, because former lovers Meg and Kayla can barely look at one another. The whole film is framed by this relationship — will they get back together?

This is an inventive set-up for a shark-attack film. Normally the characterisation in such movies is perfunctory, to say the least. But here we get to care about the characters and even their love lives. 

‘I wanted to write a shark movie that would make you cry, and hopefully make you fall in love with the characters before the carnage,’ says screenwriter Cat Clarke, who based the characters on her own friendships.

Anyway, on the eve of the nuptials, with the atmosphere still a trifle strained despite the best efforts of Cam, Ruth and Lizzie to jolly things along, the five go on a trip in an old rust bucket of a boat. 

Alas, any evocation of Enid Blyton stops there because, yes, there’s something in the water.

Hayley Easton Street’s film is snappily written by Clarke, who says that ironically the idea sprang from a love of sharks, and in particular Jaws, which coincidentally was released 49 years ago yesterday.

‘I watched Jaws when I was way too young,’ she says, and her knowledge of the toothy terrors even led to her writing a children’s book about them.

Like Clarke, Easton Street also had a keen interest in sharks. ‘I think Jaws is the pinnacle of these kinds of movies and no one’s ever come close to replicating something like that for me,’ she says. ‘It’s something I’ve really wanted to do for a long time.’

This is an inventive set-up for a shark-attack film. Normally the characterisation in such movies is perfunctory, to say the least. But here we get to care about the characters and even their love lives

This is an inventive set-up for a shark-attack film. Normally the characterisation in such movies is perfunctory, to say the least. But here we get to care about the characters and even their love lives

Anyway, on the eve of the nuptials, with the atmosphere still a trifle strained despite the best efforts of Cam, Ruth and Lizzie to jolly things along, the five go on a trip in an old rust bucket of a boat

Anyway, on the eve of the nuptials, with the atmosphere still a trifle strained despite the best efforts of Cam, Ruth and Lizzie to jolly things along, the five go on a trip in an old rust bucket of a boat 

In any event, the film soon becomes a pacy survival thriller, which has been billed as Bridesmaids meets Jaws. It’s not quite that, but the tension mounts as the women realise that spending time ‘in the Caribbean’ is best not done literally.

First the girls land on a small secluded island, where one of them takes a fateful swim. After a shark takes a chunk out of her leg, the others must get her medical help, so back they get in the boat. 

But, to paraphrase Chief Brody in Jaws, they could have done with a bigger one. Theirs hits a reef and, well, the rest is hysteria.

What Steven Spielberg proved with Jaws is that the menace of a man-eating shark is best conveyed by suggestion and implication. 

It’s that primordial look: the alarmingly sharp teeth, the coal-black, expressionless eyes, the dorsal fin that announces its imminent arrival.

In Something In The Water, Hayley Easton Street unleashes her shark on its first victim before we have seen any more of it than an ominous shadow. 

In Under Paris (see Also Showing below), similarly, we see very little of the enormous creature that has evolved to live and breed in fresh water before it wreaks spectacular carnage in the Seine during the swimming stage of a triathlon.

Our visceral, at times downright unhinged fear of sharks, which Spielberg exploited so cleverly, has diminished very little in the five decades since Jaws was made. 

Even though environmentalists keep telling us that many species of the blessed things are in danger of extinction, and that we really mustn’t look upon any of them as bloodthirsty monsters, old neuroses die hard.

But, to paraphrase Chief Brody in Jaws, they could have done with a bigger one. Theirs hits a reef and, well, the rest is hysteria

But, to paraphrase Chief Brody in Jaws, they could have done with a bigger one. Theirs hits a reef and, well, the rest is hysteria

In Something In The Water, Hayley Easton Street unleashes her shark on its first victim before we have seen any more of it than an ominous shadow

In Something In The Water, Hayley Easton Street unleashes her shark on its first victim before we have seen any more of it than an ominous shadow

Yet Cat Clarke wanted to work an environmentalist thread into the film, and actually do sharks some justice. 

‘They’re not the bad guys,’ she says. ‘We’re going into their environment and we’ve been destroying their environment for years. Shark attacks happen, but they’re not some kind of evil serial-killing machines.’

It’s no wonder the locations are exotically beautiful as the film was shot in the Dominican Republic over six weeks. But the cast and crew still encountered biblical levels of weather disruption. 

‘Most of the time it was very sunny and beautiful — except when we had two hurricanes, an earthquake, a mini tornado and more storms than they’ve had for 20 years,’ jokes producer Julie Baines. ‘Apart from that it was great!’ Most of the sea shoot was actually filmed in a water tank.

To tell you more about the plot would be to enter spoiler territory, but let’s just say that the women’s respective personalities come to the fore as they battle for survival in the water, under an unforgiving sun. 

It’s very well done, with some spectacular overhead shots — whether from helicopters or drones is hard to say these days — that convey brilliantly the nightmare of what it must be like to be stranded at sea.

Something In The Water is in cinemas now. 

Also showing 

Rating:

The French-language Netflix film Under Paris (15, 104 minutes) moves the killer-shark scenario to the Seine, turning the City of Light into the City of Fright. 

This daft premise has more teeth than you’d think, giving us solemn environmental explanations for the phenomenon.

In any case, it’s done with Olympian panache, and if the film — which stars Bérénice Bejo (Oscar nominated for The Artist) — is in parts shamelessly derivative of Jaws (even to the extent of having a stubborn mayor, who wants a pre-Games triathlon to go ahead despite knowing there’s a swimmer-gobbler at large), it is also audaciously original and, better still, great fun.

Under Paris is streaming on Netflix now.

The French-language Netflix film Under Paris (15, 104 minutes) moves the killer-shark scenario to the Seine, turning the City of Light into the City of Fright

The French-language Netflix film Under Paris (15, 104 minutes) moves the killer-shark scenario to the Seine, turning the City of Light into the City of Fright

In any case, it's done with Olympian panache, and if the film ¿ which stars Bérénice Bejo (Oscar nominated for The Artist) ¿ is in parts shamelessly derivative of Jaws (even to the extent of having a stubborn mayor, who wants a pre-Games triathlon to go ahead despite knowing there's a swimmer-gobbler at large), it is also audaciously original and, better still, great fun

In any case, it’s done with Olympian panache, and if the film — which stars Bérénice Bejo (Oscar nominated for The Artist) — is in parts shamelessly derivative of Jaws (even to the extent of having a stubborn mayor, who wants a pre-Games triathlon to go ahead despite knowing there’s a swimmer-gobbler at large), it is also audaciously original and, better still, great fun

Classic film on TV 

Live and Let Die (1973)

Roger Moore’s debut as 007 — and he started with tremendous brio. Among the very best Bonds, with an epic speedboat chase and one of the finest theme songs.

Sunday, 3.30pm, ITV1

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