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BikerBoyz

Starring Laurence Fishburne, Derek Luke, Lisa Bonet
Screenplay by Craig Fernandez and Reggie Block Bythewood
Based on a Los Angeles New Times newspaper article
Directed by Reggie Block Bythewood
website: www.bikerboyz.com

IN SHORT: A bomb. [Rated PG-13 for violence, sexual content and language. minutes]

When you strip it of all its costs and technical complications, filmmaking is really a very simple process of A, B and C. A: you introduce characters and place them in a setting. B: you throw some major obstacle into their life or path or situation. C: you resolve said obstacle. In the case of BikerBoyz, an 18 year old Kid (Derek Luke) wants to join and race with a motorcycle gang. These races can see speeds topping 170 miles per hour so it's no surprise that loving mom Anita (Vanessa Bell Calloway) forbids the Kid to race. His father, also a member of a gang, was killed as a bystander of a race less than a year before in events seen in the first scenes of the film. Mom begs the unbeaten-in-230-races leader of the gang, "Smoke" (Laurence Fishburne), to step in and stop the kid from racing, for reasons that should have been revealed, man to woman, eighteen years before.

Good thing no one explains that to the kid 'cuz that would take out all the potential conflict and kick the story up on to an entirely different emotional plane.

It's also a good thing that we've told you all that because director Reggie Block Bythewood has done his work backwards. A: he picked the soundtrack. B: he shot a lot of film of real life biker gangs to add authenticity to his project. C: he didn't shoot enough film to properly set up his characters and make anyone in our audience, which includes us, give a damn about anything in the running time of BikerBoyz. We didn't think much of the ultra-simple script but, when push comes to shove, it is the director who takes the hit. When there isn't all that much to screw up, how does he do it? It's pretty simple . . . don't properly introduce your characters.

The Kid narrates the beginning of BikerBoyz, setting up the race that will take out his father (Eriq LaSalle). If Bythewood has associated a physical face with the voice doing the narrating, he's edited the association so poorly that we don't have enough time to put the two together. LaSalle comes and goes in the film so quickly, that we aren't given the opportunity to figure out what his responsibilities to the rest of the story are. His first appearance and death scene can't last more than a second and a half each, meaning the background of the story has no weight. Anita's revelation to Smoke is a big surprise. No problem there. Smoke's behavior from that point on could have carried the weight of a man burdened by a secret he will not reveal, but BikerBoyz doesn't go that route either. Even as the Kid forms his own gang to race, and that will lead to the Inevitable, BikerBoyz is so lacking in emotional weight that the point of this story fails to have any kind of impact.

We're told, in our notes, that writer Craig Fernandez (with Bythewood finishing and sharing credit) wanted to show the culture, so to speak, of the motorcycle club world. Yes, we see some sort of governmental structure to the clubs but we are given no idea how the races and pecking order are set up. There are numerous references to legit racing versus hustling (we're assuming that means pro taking out rich kids with fancy bikes but none of that is developed either) but we don't see any of that happen, outside of the mention. With every member of the gang hanging on every twitch of the developing conflict between Smoke and the Kid, you'd think that when the ultimate face off between the pair finally happens, every member of said gang would show up to watch.

Yeah, you'd think so. BikerBoyz is so ineptly constructed that only filmstudents should pay the cash to see it -- just to see how to screw up royally. That the cast is packed with every black actor we've ever heard of -- including Lisa Bonet, Larenz Tate, Kadeem Hardison, Orlando Jones, Djimon Hounsou (and the infamous Kid Rock, for a little racial conflickt) -- is perhaps enough to bring African-Americans into the theater. We don't want to see them waste their money, either.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to BikerBoyz, he would have paid . . .

$0.00

It doesn't matter if you're white or black, if you care about cars or motorcycles or not. BikerBoyz is a failure on every level of filmmaking, from script and story to lousy editing and visual padding. Every mistake and misstep in this thing is supposed to be beaten out of potential filmmakers in the first year of film school but that doesn't seem to be the case here.

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