Dimension Films // 1994 // 84 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron // April 18th, 2003
"I don't want a pickle...Just want to ride on my motorsickle
And I don't want a tickle...'Cause I'd rather ride on my motorsickle
And I don't want to die...I just want to ride on my motorcy...cle"
-- Arlo Guthrie
A family of faux '50s rejects load up the Ford Canardly vehicular land behemoth and bust a move to the future home of smog, gangster rap, and the Reverend Jim Jones. Seems papa's got a brand new feedbag out in Cali, and he's bringing his ungrateful, sexually obsessed wife and daughter along for the upwardly mobile ride. At first, it looks like the disconnected domestics will place all their deep seeded animosity, war atrocity flashbacks and sleazy extramarital affairs behind them and settle in for a scenic sashay across the U-S of A. But wouldn't you know it, Route 66 gains an extra diabolical digit, and like a Stuckey's that sells overly greasy pork sausages, pecan nut rolls, and t-shirts two for five dollars, our nuclear numbskulls constantly careen into a loose conglomeration of motorized bicyclists with incredibly bad attitudes. These hog hacks spend their days buttering their banana seats and their nights waxing poetic about Jack Kerouac and slaughtering random individuals. When the lame leader, Jake, takes one look at the teenage saddlebag traveling to the City of Angels, he falls head over handlebars in rape for the Fabian fawning frauline. He kidnaps the un-hip chick and hauls her hinder down to Mexico for a little south of the border gangbang. But when Daddy discovers his darling daughter's daring daylight abduction, he turns into a revenge wrecking Rambo and slaughters the sidecar simpletons, Texas style. This is one Motorcycle Gang who won't be making it to Sturgis this year.
Motorcycle Gang is just an awful movie. It's about as provocative as shingles and equally as irritating. Hoping to capture some of that silly, nostalgia-oriented moolah that baby boomers expel like so much bad sushi, this made for Showtime shinola (as part of their mostly dismal Drive-In series) flounders around like a disoriented carp looking for an Iron Chef to put it out of its (and our) misery. Failing to capture any of the goofball charm of your standard juvenile jive junk from the '50s or '60s and dredged in a decidedly warped message about family and fathers, it's the cinematic equivalent of struggling to stay awake as your grandfather tells you the incredibly detailed and boring as a Baldwin story of his gall bladder operation. The notion that someone, specifically director John Milius, thought that this would make an exciting, entertaining motion picture means one of two things: either Milius, who's done much better work before and since, needed to pay off a long overdue eBay account or some executive at Showtime was smoking monkey nuggets when he or she greenlit this road trip trash. Anyone reading the script and thinking that buried within its bland characterization, illogical story turns, and just plain weird ancillary characters (a beatnik couple as porn photographers who own a New Mexico Motor Lodge?) there was a tight, taut bit of faux exploitation fun should have Syd Fields' three act corpse haunt them for the rest of their hopefully short life. Motorcycle Gang is a tainted travelogue that sullies the memory of such minor pieces as The Wild Rebels, C.C. and Company, and Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo.
Frankly, this movie was destined to fail. There is possibly no worse basic premise for a motion picture than to focus on the smelly, beer-bellied antics of a bunch of chopper chumps. True, Easy Rider and films of its ilk made the entire notion of heading down the highway, wind in your hair and heavy metal thunder roaring above seem romantic and enlightening. But Hopper's head/road trip was a happy accident: a marriage of talent with the times. Most other crotch rocket cinema is of the bar and brawl variety. The "bad bickering bikers causing small town bedlam" storyline was never that great to begin with. Unless its Harley hoopla was laced with sin, skin, drugs, death, booze, broads, racing, randiness, a serious social/political message,or Billy Jack, at its core it's just a stupid story; a frivolous account of juvenile delinquents with crappy fashion sense and a yearning for flaming horsepower vibrating between their knees, picking on the elderly and nerd-like. But Motorcycle Gang still wants to make these nondescript nogoodniks interesting and evil. They only end up filling the audience with ennui. No matter how hard he tries, Jake Busey, that horse-faced figment of his father's inner imagination child, is more autistic than angry. He's about as menacing as a mealworm. But then again, the deck is completely stacked against him. The only truly frightening motorcyclists are those oddly shaped Shriners who ride Mattel mini-bikes in local parades or crisp, fresh black leather wearing R.U.B. yuppie yahoos in their Supercuts hairdos who cart their fake breasted and blousy Gap-wearing wives around on the back of their glistening chrome custom jobs like they just picked them up from the kennel. When Major Dad's Gerald McRaney's imitation of a marble statue is the best thing about a supposedly rip snorting good time at the movies, you know only Delta Burke in a skimpy negligee can save the day. Frankly, a naked beefalo couldn't rescue this tank slapper of a travesty.
The presentation of Motorcycle Gang on DVD begs the mindset companies like Dimension have when it comes to the whole digital revolution. True, there may be some Milius completists out there who are desperate for anything and everything this man puts out (one wonders what they'd pay for a kidney stone?) or maybe the Elan Oberon fan club petitioned to get all her undervalued work out on the market where eager devotees could plunk down the baby's milk money on this lost part of Ms. O's intense oeuvre. Surely Disney's other in-house "dope" doesn't expect to spotlight the technical excellence of the format with the horrendous sound and image offered here. Presented in a made for TV full screen "family friendly" created for a substandard cable channel image, the picture pixelates, fades in and out, and goes into cloudy compressive convulsions the minute the sun sets. Basically, the transfer blows rabbit pellets. And any sound presentation that allows us to hear Busey Jr.s big Pappa imitation, be it in Dolby Digital Stereo Surround or the tinny AM transmissions from an old crystal radio, is equally foul. Add some more of those heinous direct from Dimension trailers, and you've got one hellava hunk of chraa on your hands. Like a long stretch of highway that just seems to meander on endlessly, going nowhere and taking forever to get there, Motorcycle Gang guns its engine, revs its throttle and tries like a Triumph to pop its clutch. But it only endos and odnes over anyone stupid enough to watch it. This is one Q-tipped squid that deserves a vicious yard shark attack.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Dimension Films
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 84 Minutes
Release Year: 1994
MPAA Rating: Rated R