A so-so ride with ‘The Bikeriders’; ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ a solid prequel; ‘Kill’ is an appalling, style-free orgy of violence; ‘Midnight Oil: The Hardest Line’ a fan-oriented bio-doc

On ya bike: Austin Butler in ‘The Bikeriders’.

THE BIKERIDERS **1/2 (116 minutes) M
There have been some great films about motorcycles and bikie gangs since the advent of The Wild One. Unfortunately, The Bikeriders doesn’t shape up as one of them.

All up it’s OK, though it is a bit of a ramble with a thin story, very little motorcycle action and a grand lack of Austin Butler.

A fictionalised take on the 1968 book of photos and interviews by Danny Lyon, writer/director Jeff Nichols (Mud; Loving; Take Shelter) takes us through the formation of the Vandals bikie gang in and around 1960s Chicago.

Much of the story unspools from the highly descriptive utterances of Kathy (Jodie Comer) as she does her household chores.

She’s the wife of biker Benny (Austin Butler), who rides with club leader Johnny (Tom Hardy) and whose devotion to his unkempt chums and to his club colours is absolute.

To wit, the film begins with Benny at a bar refusing a request from two rednecks to take off his jacket. This leads to the first of a series of punch-ons peppered throughout the film.

We meet the other eccentrics in the gang as it becomes so popular other bikies want to either join or start their own chapters.

Storywise, the film is surprisingly anemic. There’s some emphasis on who is worthy and the usual bikie talk of being societal outsiders despite being suburban guys with normal jobs, a fascinating dichotomy the film does little with.

Yet there’s no real central story apart from “the story of the club” as pieced together by the young amateur author doing all the interviews.

The other big issue with the film is that the main characters are hard to warm to. They’re not particularly likeable or honourable, they don’t really do anything that distinguishes them from thugs.

Early on Johnny orders a completely innocent man to be brutally punished, an act of barbarity the bikie characters never recover from that.

Consequently, it’s hard to care about their internal squabbles, about memberships, about whether they live or die.

Kudos to Jodie Comer, whose performance as Kathy is the film’s saving grace. She also proves to be the smartest when she casually calls out the hypocrisy of how these rule breakers set up their own strict code.

Tom Hardy’s portrayal is strong, but it doesn’t make up for the disappointment Austin Butler brings.

For all the bumph he’s received for the movie (including some gushing, cringe-inducing TV interviews) and given how impressive he’s been – Elvis; Once Upon a Time in Hollywood; Masters of the Air – his performance here is surprisingly shallow and somewhat colourless.

Admittedly, he didn’t have all much to work with; his character is described as being so emotionally restrained he was indifferent at his father’s funeral. He loves riding his bike, but apart from that he’s a bit of a cypher.

Also surprising is how, given his prominence on all the posters and signage, Butler essentially plays support to Tom Hardy.

So, it’s quite possible those drawn to the movie because of Butler’s marquee value might emerge a tad disappointed.

The period reproduction feel authentic, giving you the sense of slipping back in time.

That said, the cinematography is rather ordinary and there’s not all that much motorcycle action in the film. As beautiful as they are, the bikes spend more time on their stands than on the road.

There are plenty of nods to the seminal 1958 Marlon Brando classic The Wild One – that film’s famous dialogue exchange also turns out to be the best line here – but anyone expecting anything in the league of the TV series Sons of Anarchy will likely feel short-changed.

A QUIET PLACE: DAY ONE *** (93 minutes) M
This very nifty origin story takes us to that busy day in New York when hellfire rained down upon the Earth to deliver the spidery, visually impaired alien critters who hunt by sound, meaning all their potential food sources need to keep silent.

It’s a worthy companion piece to the first two Quiet Place films, with writer/director Michael Sarnoski (Pig) proving a dab hand at atmospheric touches with in-built backstories, such as victims muffling their cries and burning military vehicles.

He also shares a story credit with John Krasinski, creator/director/writer of the original film.

KILL 1/2 (104 minutes) MA
Absolutely dreadful, dull, incoherent, ultra-violent Indian action film set on a speeding train as a group of incompetent thieves try to hijack a train that happens to have a commando close-quarters specialist on board. It’s an orgy of stabbing and blood-letting that verges on the pornographic. That’s what happens when style is absent. Awful, repugnant and, worst of all, boring.

MIDNIGHT OIL: THE HARDEST LINE *** (110 minutes) M
Worthwhile, if conventional bio-documentary about the unconventional, issue-driven Australian rock band that set social concerns about racial injustice and corporate malfeasance to music.

Designed chiefly for fans, the film dives into the detail of the band’s origins, evolution, break-up and reformation with plenty of archival footage and contemporary interviews.

Despite the title, the film takes a decidedly soft line when it comes to the heart of the band’s modus operandi, such as its protest actions. One revealing piece of footage sees the band cowering in a car as they try escaping from a crowd of people whose livelihoods they have trodden on.

Coverage of lead singer Peter Garrett’s post-band political career as a Labour MP is also too adulatory and there’s no critical assessment about whether Midnight Oil achieved any long-term impact.

The divisive social firmament into which the group re-emerged in the 2020s suggests how, its popularity notwithstanding, the appeal might have had more to do with the music than the messaging it carried.

Given the nostalgic tone of the piece, some sober reflection on whether Midnight Oil brought any enduring change to the national conversation would have served the film well.

For instance, while much is made about the Sorry issue and the band’s appearance at the 2000 Olympic opening ceremony wearing jumpsuits with “sorry” written on them, there is no mention of the failed Yes vote, something Garrett supported.

Surely the band would have had something interesting to say about that, and if pop music has long term influence.

Some music does. Some, it seems, doesn’t.