January 31, 2003 5:02am EST
Described as "a contemporary Western on wheels " Biker Boyz tells the tale of underground motorcycle clubs in California one specifically called the Black Knights. The group's leader is a tough undefeated racer named Smoke (Laurence Fishburne) also known as the "King of Cali." Kid (Derek Luke) meanwhile is a young rider trying to work his way up the Black Knight ladder. But when his father (Eriq La Salle) Smoke's mechanic gets killed in a race Kid's ambition is to start a rival gang and become the new King of Cali. One "burn rubber not your soul" tattoo later Kid and his pals Stuntman (Brendan Fehr) and Primo (Rick Gonzalez) start the Biker Boyz gang and the world better look out because they make their own rules. Good grief--this story couldn't be less gripping if it tried. Despite throwing in a paternal plot twist Biker Boyz fails to engage because its protagonists Smoke and Kid are so damn unlikeable. Moviegoers expecting great crotch-rocket action sequences will instead be bombarded with lots of T&A.
The most staggering thing about Biker Boyz is how they managed to get so many stars to sign on. We're talking Fishburne Luke Orlando Jones and Djimon Hounsou all of whom seem to have gorged themselves at the all-you-can-eat testosterone buffet prior to filming. Fishburne (The Matrix) plays his character Smoke so stiffly his more tender scenes come off as absurd. A post-coital cuddle with onscreen lover Queenie (former Cosby Show kid Lisa Bonet) for example plays out coldly rather than passionately. Luke (Antwone Fisher) doesn't fare any better as Kid who is so angry and venomous that his tear-shedding scenes lose all their effect. Orlando Jones manages to churn out a good performance as Black Knight member Soul Train. A lawyer by day Jones' character is the only one that doesn't seem to have a massive chip on his shoulder--or a bone to pick with the rest of the universe.
Biker Boyz is based on an article written by freelance journalist Michael Gougis for the now-defunct Los Angeles New Times. While Gougis' factual feature probably made for a riveting read director/writer Reggie Rock Bythewood (Dancing in September) fails to transform it into an engaging fictionalized screenplay. In fact not even the film's eye candy--all those Japanese sport bikes and chromed-out American cruisers--make this film entertaining. For the triple-digit-speed street racing sequences Bythewood uses special effects straight out of the Japanese animated cartoon Speed Racer including blurry tunnel vision scenes and tons of speedometer shots. There are a couple of really flashy stunt scenes but there aren't enough of them to carry the flick forcing moviegoers to focus on the lame story and its sad sack of disconnected characters. In fact the story and its characters' plights are so insubstantial that the audience at the screening I attended laughed out loud at what were supposed to be some of the film's more poignant moments.