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Sarah Jessica Parker,
John Milius's Motorcycle Gang is a damn fine film. Originally made as a part of the Rebel Highway Series, a short lived series of made for TV movies for the Showtime channel, (ten TV-Movies produced in all) were made as homage to the great B-movies of the 1950's. Each director was given a very modest budget ($1.3 Million) and a limited time of shooting.
While the vast majority of the Rebel Highway films are campy and silly, or overacted bordering dangerously close to the realm of soap operas, Milius's Motorcycle Gang is none of these things. It's adult, serious, dark, wonderfully written, well-acted, and at its core a damn fine story. In fact this film does exactly what a movie should do, it takes its audience to another time and place, where they are then thrown into circumstances where otherwise they would (hopefully) never find themselves. In truth this movie showcases some of Milius's best work.
Motorcycle Gang stands out for a number of reasons - first, it takes its self seriously. With the intention of making a good movie and not a campy, cheesy, and over sexualized film, John Milius gives a realistic take on a normally outrageous idea (a vicious hoard of psychopathic bikers terrorizes an innocent family, chasing them across the American desert). And in doing so he paints a much more accurate description of life in 1950's America. Motorcycle Gang is able to achieve this in a number of different ways, first by manifesting the typical beliefs and opinions of many 1950's Americans in its characters. Throughout the film you will see many of the characters beliefs and opinions on pop-culture, values, history, and taboos being challenged as well as the lasting effect of those challenges.
Second by having more realistic characters, not only the performance of the characters is strong. Gerald McRaney's (the Father) portrayals very accurately a deeply conflicted man, a former war hero, now striving for a new start. Carla Gugino (the daughter) experiences a coming of age story. And Elan Oberon who plays (the Mother) battles her own demons and experiences a great deal of growth. Interestingly, actress Elan Oberon is John Milius's real-life wife and was previously terrorized by another gang of psychopathic bikers in yet another Milius story, this one part of the Miami Vice TV series entitled Viking Bikers from Hell. But all of the characters are driven by their own personal desires, goals, and experiences. And you see these recur again and again throughout the film in the characters.
Increasing the realism once again are the costumes - much more than your typical, blue jeans and Chuck Taylor shoes combination in a 1950's movie. The costumes that the characters wear truly help define them. The action scenes (the stunts and fights scene) are very realistic. For example, the fight scene, encompasses real-life Jiu Jitsu moves and 1940's military combat techniques. There are also a wonderful almost cameo appearance by Rorion Gracie (one of the co-founders of UFC) as Sgt. Lopez who I am sure, accompanied with Stunt Coordinator, Terry Jackson and John Milius had a hand in the fight scene).
But the writing is what stands out most of all. It is genius. While simply "the writing" is a very broad topic and encompass most of what has been previously mentioned, it must be mentioned because the writing is what makes this movie. (It should be noted that while the story is by Kent Anderson and while he also has a teleplay credit accompanied with Laurie McQuillan, what is not mentioned or credited is the fact that John Milius rewrote the teleplay (as stated in a 2003 interview)). It is in the rewrites by John Milius where his true genius emerges and it is there where the film gains its great and incredible depth, especially in a movie that does not even eclipse the 90 min mark. As previously stated the characters are more than simply one dimensional. They have goals, beliefs, taboos, and fears. But the characters also have a past, and in typical John Milius fashion he ties his characters into a significant historical incident and has them shaped by these events. It should be noted that while Milius's characters are known for giving great speeches, I always found it is the subtleties in his speeches, not just what the characters say and do, but the reasons behind them that truly shapes his movies. And Motorcycle Gang is no exception, it contains all of those accepts. And it is that, which makes this movie great, and truly a worthwhile film.
Now that I have written far much more than I originally intended I well leave you saying only this. I enjoyed this movie because it was fun, fraught with great adventure, history, and terror. It is a movie that, if given a chance, will sit right up and grab you.
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