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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, January 31, 2003

'Biker Boyz' is 2-wheeled 'Fast and the Furious'

By Marshall Fine
The (Westchester, N.Y.) Journal News

BIKER BOYZ (Rated PG-13 for profanity, violence, and sexuality)


A predictable, if visually exciting, tale of motorcycle clubs in southern California and the efforts of a young rider to take the title of the reigning champ. You've seen it before. Starring Derek Luke, Laurence Fishburne. Lisa Bonet, Megan Good, Salli Richardson, Larenz Tate, Kid Rock, and Djimon Hounsou. Directed by Reggie Rock Bythewood. DreamWorks Pictures, 110 minutes.

Supposedly based on a real subculture in southern California, "Biker Boyz" is "The Fast and the Furious" on two wheels.

Directed by Reggie Rock Bythewood from a script he co-wrote with Craig Fernandez, "Biker Boyz" is constructed like a western: Who will beat the fastest gun — er, motorcyclist — in the West and be crowned King of Cali (fornia, that is)?

The answer, obvious from the opening credits, is Jalil, aka Kid (Derek Luke). The champ is Smoke (Laurence Fishburne), whose mechanic and best friend, Slick Will (Eriq LaSalle in an uncredited role), is Kid's father.

They all belong to one of what appears to be a consortium of motorcycle clubs, with names like the Black Knights and the Soul Brothers. They meet at night for illegal street races, where the stakes are usually a few hundred bucks and the loser's "lid" (helmet).

Right from the start, the 18-year-old Kid is chafing at his rookie status. He's a prospect, as the emblem on the back of his jacket embarrassingly proclaims. (Why not just make him wear a badge that says "Trainee"?) When his father is killed in a racing accident, Kid decides to become a racer, rather than a mechanic, and forms his own motorcycle club — the Biker Boyz — setting his sights on Smoke's crown.

Director Bythewood is a competent visual stylist, capturing the adrenaline and testosterone of these macho rituals. That doesn't make up for the predictability of the script but then, this movie isn't aimed at an audience that's overly concerned with its literary quality.

What this audience — i.e., young males — wants is speed, action and color, which Bythewood gives them in large doses. The movie quickly becomes more about the style of these motorcycle clubs than the tension-free story. But it also raises more questions than it answers, such as:

Why do veteran motorcyclists only seem to wear clothing so clean and untarnished that it appears to have been purchased yesterday?

Where do these motorcycle clubs get the money to hire interior decorators to design clubhouses that look like cutting-edge nightclubs?

Have all the police deserted Los Angeles — or can motorcycle clubs get permits to close down miles of streets in broad daylight for their illegal races?

Why don't the clubs' one or two tough-looking female members ever seem to race?

And, finally:

Who decided Kid Rock could act? Do we get to vote on that?

Luke is a definite talent, as he shows in "Antwone Fisher" and the upcoming "Pieces of April." He invests Kid with more emotional weight than the script knows what to do with. Acting powerhouse Fishburne does the same thing with Smoke, though he looks puffy-faced and paunchy here. Hopefully, he'll slim down for the "Matrix" sequels.

"Burn rubber, not your soul," is Smoke's motto in "Biker Boyz." To which might be added, "Or your brain cells."

Rated PG-13 for profanity, violence, and sexuality.