The Movie Waffler New Release Review - RODEO | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - RODEO

Rodeo film review
A young motorbike enthusiast becomes involved with a bike theft ring.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Lola Quivoron

Starring: Julie Ledru, Yanis Lafki, Antonia Buresi, Louis Sotton, Junior Correia, Ahmed Hamdi, Dave Nsaman

Rodeo film poster

American cinema of the 1950s was full of b-movies that catered to the first generation of teenagers able to drive their own cars, or at least borrow Daddy's on a Friday night. They usually involved juvenile delinquents getting involved with hardened criminals through their love of speed, and they would invariably fall for the big baddy's girlfriend. This simple premise fuelled many a double feature at the drive-in and decades later was rehashed to kick off the modern blockbuster franchise The Fast and the Furious, which took its name from a 1954 b-movie produced by the King of the Bs, Roger Corman.

Director Lola Quivoron's debut feature Rodeo is very modern and very French, but like that first instalment of the Fast and Furious series, it's essentially just a reworking of a typical 1950s petrolhead programmer. The soundtrack is hip-hop rather than rock 'n roll and the characters ride motorbikes rather than race convertibles, but otherwise it ticks all the same boxes.

Rodeo film review

Our juvenile delinquent anti-heroine here is Julia. Played by Julie Ledru, a real life biker discovered by the director, Julia lives her life in both fast and furious fashion. She makes a living stealing motorbikes by posing as a buyer on ebay and then disappearing in a cloud of exhaust fumes when the seller is dumb enough to let her take their bike for a test ride. Much of Rodeo strains credulity, but this ongoing scam is the hardest element to swallow. Wouldn't word get out among the bike enthusiast community that a distinctive young woman is stealing bikes on such a regular basis?

Julia takes her latest stolen bike to an "urban rodeo," where young men perform wheelies on a stretch of road. "Lads, you're in your twenties, get a life," will probably be your reaction, and it was certainly mine. But whatever gets you through the day I guess. Julia desperately wants to be part of this male-dominated scene and gets to prove her worth when she displays some medical skills (how she acquired them is never explained) to settle a wounded biker's leg.

Rodeo film review

A bunch of bikers who call themselves the B-Mores take her back to the lock-up where they store stolen bikes and introduce her via facetime to their incarcerated boss, Domino (Sébastien Schroeder). Impressed by her thievery skills, Domino recruits Julia to work for him. I couldn't wrap my head around why Julia would split the profits of her crimes with someone else rather than continue to keep them for herself, but I guess she's really desperate to hang out with a bunch of lads and pull wheelies.

As I previously mentioned, the protagonists of these movies are always falling for the villain's girl, and that's the case once again here. Domino's wife Ophélie (Antonia Buresi, who co-wrote the script) might as well be imprisoned herself, as he forbids her from leaving their home unless it's for a conjugal prison visit. She even lives behind shuttered windows, presumably to fend off attacks from Domino's enemies. Ophélie is the most interesting character in the movie, and I couldn't help but wish Quivoron had decided to make a movie about the lonely life of a feared criminal's wife instead of this hackneyed high speed heist thriller, something along the lines of Isabella Eklöf's excellent Holiday. But Ophélie only pops up intermittently, chiefly to inject an element of doomed, unconsummated romance.

Rodeo film review

Other sub-plots include a mystery biker threatening Julia and the planned heist of a moving truck with some very desirable bikes on board. While a conventional heist thriller would heavily incorporate the planning of the latter into its narrative, here it's just mentioned a couple of times until we see it occur in the climax. Quivoron doesn't have the budget to pull off a Hollywood style set-piece but she manages to make it thrilling nonetheless, delivering a stylish set-piece that looks and plays like a relic from France's "Cinema du Look" movement of the 1980s.

By that point however you'll likely have stopped caring about any of the characters. They're an unlikeable bunch and despite some impressive performances, especially that of newcomer Ledru, they never come off as anything more than archetypes. A late touch of magic realism feels like a tacked on afterthought from a movie desperate to distinguish itself, but Quivoron may have been more successful had she decided to stick to this sub-genre's simple formula and deliver the requisite thrills. After a few too many wheelies, Rodeo ends up on its arse, but there's an undeniable rush of adrenaline along the way.

 is in UK cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema from April 28th.

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