"Swill" is a perfect word for "Biker Boyz," cinematic idiocy served up by the troughful. Billed as a "contemporary Western on wheels with desperados who live every day on the edge," this movie lives up to its billing. But not all Westerns are good. Some of them are simplistic amalgamations of cheese in which characters speak in cliches and you know exactly how every shootout is going to end.
The biggest mystery in "Biker Boyz" is how they got Laurence Fishburne, who plays Smoke, California's dominant motorcycle street racer, to take the lead role in this unintentional comedy that will bore even the 15-year-olds at which it is undoubtedly aimed. "Biker Boyz" makes "The Fast and the Furious" look like "Othello."
Derek Luke, in a missed gear shift after his star turn in "Antwone Fisher," plays Kid, a probationary rider in the Black Knights motorcycle gang headed by Smoke. The Kid shows up to a street race that pits Smoke against a trash-talking rider. Smoke wins (duh!), but his mechanic, Kid's father Slick Will (Eriq LaSalle), meets an untimely demise courtesy of a flying motorcycle to the face.
He gets off easy. He's escaped this movie.
Frustrated and disillusioned by the death of his dad, Kid proceeds to master the art of street racing, the very thing that killed his father. Kid's permanently cocked throttle wrist is aimed at taking the crown of Smoke, the "King of Cali."
To get a shot at Smoke, he starts his own motorcycle gang, Biker Boyz, with Stuntman (Brendan Fehr) and Primo (Rick Gonzalez), and begins the task of earning enough respect to merit a ride against Smoke. "Biker Boyz make their own rules," snarls Kid. Presumably, this explains Stuntman's magic hair, which ruffles lightly upon his helmetless head as he hurtles down the road at 170 mph.
The fundamental problem with "Biker Boyz" is that we are asked to embark on a journey to manhood with a character we care nothing about. He's a loudmouthed, showoff jerk who doesn't really change even after he gets a comeuppance of sorts, courtesy of an illegal drag-racing move by Dogg (Kid Rock).
We don't care about Smoke, because his character is a self-centered idiot who lives from race to race, finding a bit of heart only when slapped upside the head by the film's stunning revelation.
Director Reggie Rock Bythewood treats this film as one giant music video, with enough low-angle camera shots to sate MTV for a decade, plus a bumpin' soundtrack. His film presents bluster and macho posturing as dialogue, and character development is presented with all the style and grace of the "Does not!" "Does Too!" shouting matches that we had as children.
And like almost every film based on an interesting piece of writing (an article by Michael Gougis about California's African-American biker culture), "Biker Boyz" gets corrupted to an empty bit of nothing. Even the Big Race between Kid and Smoke is diluted by its anticlimactic resolution, and a reunion moment that comes out of left field because, well, it's that time in the film. Burn rubber away from this stinker.
1 star (out of 4) "Biker Boyz"
Directed by Reggie Rock Bythewood; written by Craig Fernandez and Bythewood, based on an article by Michael Gougis; photographed by Gregory Gardiner; music by Camara Kambon. Opens Friday, Jan. 31. Running time: 1:51. MPAA rating: PG-13 (language and sexual situations).
Smoke - Laurence Fishburne
Kid - Derek Luke
Soul Train - Orlando Jones
Queenie - Lisa Bonet Stuntman - Brendan Fehr
Kevin Williams is a Chicago Tribune staff writer.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun