Boyz n the Helmet

Burn rubber, not your soul, baby - Slick Will

Derek Luke and Laurence Fishburne in Biker Boyz

Occasionally watching a movie you've never heard of can yield a pleasant surprise, such was the case with "Biker Boyz" starring Laurence Fishburne and Derek Luke. When I first watched "Biker Boyz" I had no idea of how good or bad the movie would turn out as I had never heard of it yet alone read any reviews and frankly I thoroughly enjoyed it. It may not have the most dynamic storyline or the most complex characters, or even a real villain, but it is entertaining in an easy to watch manner.

Smoke (Laurence Fishburne - What's Love Got to Do with It) the undefeated 'King of Cali' motorbike racing is shocked when his ace mechanic, Slick (Eriq La Salle) is accidentally killed when a race bike flies off course into the crowd. But he has to get his act together when Slicks' son Kid (Derek Luke - Notorious), starts his own biker club and sets about challenging Smoke for his coveted title.

Brendan Fehr, Meagan Good and Rick Gonzalez in Biker Boyz

"Biker Boyz" revolves around the life of African-American bikers, who race their super charged motorbikes up and down the streets in illegal races, sort of "The Fast and the Furious" but with bikes and without the crime element. In reality, the motorbikes and illegal street racing just provides the vehicle for the true story which is the relationship between the two central characters of Kid and Smoke. In a way the relationships are about coming of age for both of the characters, you have Kid the petulant teenager who has a lot of anger after the death of his father and then you have Smoke who feels responsible for the well being of Kid as well as his mother. Of course the coming of age and accepting responsibility storylines have been used in numerous movies over the years, but it still works pretty decently when done right, and in the case of "Biker Boyz", it is definitely done right.

What I found interesting was that I originally thought that someone had taken the concept of "The Fast and the Furious" and transferred it over to the world of motorbikes and African-Americans. But the actual concept came from an article in the a Los Angeles newspaper which described the illegal street racing clubs where affluent people from young men to middle age gentleman, of different creed and colour, would meet and race each other for money, respect and generally the thrill of it all. For me this made the story more tangible, knowing that it was based on a real thing rather than just someone's fantasy, but even without this knowledge, the movie and the whole story line is still highly entertaining and enjoyable.

There are numerous other storylines interspersed throughout the movie such as a romance between Kid and a beautiful tattoo artist as well as Kid and his friend Stuntman setting up their own biker gang to rival the White Knights. But the main focal point is the coming of age thread and all these other storylines are not so much used as padding but to enhance the main storyline.

As already mentioned, the main focus of "Biker Boyz" is the characters Kid and Smoke. Kid is played by Derek Luke and is a petulant character that is full of anger and determination but also pride. He basically wants to be the best street racer ever, partly due to being brought up idolizing Smoke but also in the fact that he wants to take his title away from him in revenge for his father's death. To be honest I had never heard of Derek Luke prior to this movie but he certainly did a great job of keeping me interested in his character, in some ways his performance was similar to those by Denzel Washington in his younger days, a little raw but engrossing.

Opposite Derek Luke is Laurence Fishburne as Smoke, a middle aged racing legend who has the respect of everyone after years of being undefeated. Although middle aged, he still leads the free life of a young man, never settling down whilst he can enjoy the attentions of numerous young women. But deep down he feels the need to grow up and act his age. Fishburne is magnificent in this role, as he commands the screen whenever he is in a scene. This may not be his best performance to date, but it is one which shows his ability to play many diverse characters.

Other enjoyable performances include Orlando Jones as Soul Train, a lawyer who is Smoke's right hand man in the White Knights. Lisa Bonet as Queenie, a female street racer who has a thing for Smoke and Rick Gonzalez who plays Primo, one of the founder members of Kid's gang of street racers.

"Biker Boyz" is directed by Reggie Rock Bythewood and he has done an all round reasonable job. There are a few problems, such as the actual racing scenes lack the excitement that the aforementioned "The Fast and the Furious" had in its racing scenes and the characters don't seem to have any real complexity or depth. But overall he has done a very good job, especially as this was only his second directional outing. What I did enjoy is the fact that a movie which could easily been littered with swearing, violence and gratuitous sex came across as very clean with very few references to any of these making it very acceptable viewing for a teenage market in my opinion. Some people may say the lack of these elements make the movie somewhat unrealistic, but for me this added to the enjoyment as it didn't detract from the story.

What this all boils down to is that whilst "Biker Boyz" may not have the excitement of "The Fast and the Furious" and it may lack a really gritty story, for me it is very entertaining. Most of my enjoyment comes from the good performances and the simplicity of the movie which made it very easy to watch. Although its flaws may put a few people off, I would class this as a great movie to watch on a Saturday night with a pizza and a beer.

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