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Biker Boyz

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Derek Luke daydreams as Laurence Fishburne drones on about bullet time and blue pills.

© 2002, DreamWorks
All Rights Reserved

In the back alleys, bridges and nightspots of California live the biker gangs. Like horsemen on the prairie, these men (including Orlando Jones, Kid Rock, and Djimon Hounsou) stalk the land on souped-up motorcycles, believing in honor and theatrical presentation. The leader of these gangs is Smoke (Laurence Fishburne), and no one has been able to match his speed or confidence when they challenge him to race. Wanting to join the elite ranks is young Kid (Derek Luke, "Antwone Fisher"), who, when faced with tragedy, decides to form his own gang, called the Biker Boyz, and challenge Smoke's standing in this motor underworld. For Kid, it's a matter of pride and rage, but for Smoke, Kid's rise to prominence signals an end of an era for the gangs, and one he's not going to let go of quietly.

Suggesting itself a western-style take on street justice and nobility, I wish "Biker Boyz" (IMDb listing) was as willingly reckless as its title. A shameless rip-off of "The Fast And The Furious," "Boyz" uses motorcycles in place of 10-second cars, but the rest of the picture follows the 2001 smash rather severely. It's another pointless, lethargic exercise in style and cardboard characterization, but it lacks the blatant stupidity of "Furious," and its glossy visuals as well.

Director Reggie Rock Blythewood ("Dancing in September") tries to turn his film into the stylish affair Rob Cohen made out of "Furious," but Bythewood wasn't supplied with enough money to pull off the visuals Cohen rustled up. Bythewood uses handheld cameras to suggest style, along with grainy, dark cinematography, yet none of this helps the movie. "Biker Boyz" is an ugly film to look at, all the more painful because this unpleasant visual standard set by Bythewood was meant to make the film stand out from the pack.

The film doesn't even get the racing scenes right. While there is an intrinsic power to watching motorcycles speed along at 150 mph, "Biker Boyz" doesn't employ the right mood to help goose the velocity. In fact, Bythewood chooses mid-tempo R&B tunes to accompany some of the races, siphoning the energy right out of them.

Young actor Derek Luke follows up his standout lead turn in Denzel Washington's "Antwone Fisher" with this role here, and the results are troubling. While a sweet, volatile turn was coaxed out of the actor in "Fisher," Bythewood only encourages Luke to rage annoyingly throughout "Boyz." Matched up against a powerful, assured veteran like Laurence Fishburne, I kept hoping Smoke would take Kid over his knee and just start spanking him. Bythewood doesn't even out Kid's temperament, thus making Luke's performance seem awfully one-note. Actors are the only chance "Biker Boyz" has for success, but the final product fails them as well.

The cinematic world doesn't need any more "Furious" clones, especially when the hilariously titled sequel, "2 Fast 2 Furious" rolls into theaters this summer. "Biker Boyz" might have had something to work with, had it decided to skip the bandwagon jumping, and try for something original and truly meaningful.

Filmfodder Grade: D

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