I have just finished watching a great bicycle movie. Completely un-heralded, I had never heard of this bike messenger documentary. I was just searching NetFlix for anything with the keyword "bicycle" and this film came up. Every now and again, life is sweet.
This film alleges to be about the famous Alleycat Races of the New York Bike Messenger scene, but in reality it is more about their culture, humor and very obvious humanity. Throughout the 52 minute film I found myself identifying neighborhoods, parks and the familiar faces of, if not the individuals, then the classes of the people who make their living riding bicycles in the urban chaos that is New York City.
Narrated by the messengers themselves, the filmmakers remain well behind the lens affording the messengers the dignity of telling the viewer their stories in their own words. In a series of conversational voiceovers we learn not only who the messengers are, but we also gain an insight into the widely held prejudices against them.
Told in their own words, the language is occasionally rough and the glimpses into their parties are not G rated. But, these are glimpses (a total of perhaps four seconds). If you are watching this movie with your kids, they could easily miss the scenes, but, as this is a movie about a lifestyle and culture, the scenes belong where they are.
The races, ahhh the races.... what can be said? Insane, reckless, and exciting as hell! Filmed to capture just how reckless these races really are you will find yourself heaving back and forth in your chair to avoid being squished between two busses barely a messenger bike handlebar apart.
Did you know that the Alleycat Races have themes? I didn't. Structured (there's a word I never thought I'd use in conjunction with bike messenger anything)- structured to duplicate what the messengers do all day. To certify completion of the course, there are tasks that must be accomplished, and arrival at check points must be recorded on manifests along the way. But, aside from situating the checkpoints, the route of the race is determined by the messengers themselves. The objective (another weird word here) is just to complete the delivery route, making every stop, in the shortest time possible by whatever means neccessary.
There is far more here than I am highlighting and I have left the best parts for you to discover when you watch this film. It is rare for me to laugh out loud at a movie and I found myself doing so at least twice. Humor pervades all aspects of "the life". It becomes a much a question of, laugh or you'll cry. The messengers choose to laugh so we laugh with them... buy this film. It needs to be part of your bike film library!
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