Motorcycles aren’t just a form of transportation, for many it’s a way of life. Having known a number of motorcycle enthusiasts in my days, they talk about the bikes themselves, the jackets, the helmets, where to ride, and every other minute detail of their passion. In 1971, Bruce Brown explored the motorcycle scene with On Any Sunday. Now, 43 years later, his son Dana Brown returns to the world of motorcycles, exploring the world to view the different forms of motorcycle fandom. For fans of the motorcycle, this film will likely be highly entertaining. For those not attuned to motorcycle culture the film is lacking, never bridging the gap for the uninitiated.
The film isn’t lacking in ambition as Brown travels the world interviewing an Australian daredevil, Robbie Maddison, dirt track racers, a motorcycle based delivery service for medical supplies in small African villages, a paralyzed legend who has found a way to still ride, a custom bike maker, a rising Spanish superstar, Marc Marquez, competing for the world championship on the MotoGP circuit, and a shop owner, Carlin Dunne, attempting to set new speed records in the Bonneville Salt Flats, as well as his attempts to win the Pike’s Peak Race on an electric motorcycle. Hell, there’s even an appearance by a disheveled Mickey Rourke. There are even more stories and each contain interesting aspects to each of these stories, however, the running time prevents the film from properly exploring them. The vastness of the project’s ambition is more suited for a mini-series, allowing each story to have its proper depth.
For how much the film deals with competition in the motorcycle world, it astoundingly lacks any drama or tension to keep the uninitiated involved. I just can’t help but think how a documentary like King of Kong made something as silly as the world record of Donkey Kong the most important thing in the world, yet On Any Sunday: The Next Chapter can’t convey that same sense of forward momentum. It’s not a particularly bad film, per se, but the film is so assured that motorcycles are the coolest thing ever that no effort is made to explain why. For the non-motorcycle lover, it’s the film equivalent of a stranger on Harley revving his engine – he loves it while you’re just baffled by the obnoxious noise.
I don’t want to give that On Any Sunday: The Next Chapter is devoid of any positive qualities. Most of the film is shot incredibly well. New technology has allowed Brown to present motorcycle racing in a way that it has never been seen before. That being said, the number of slow motion sequences or crashes at high speeds quickly become tiresome. Easily, my favorite aspect of the film was its rocking soundtrack. A nice blend of old and new rock ‘n’ roll – Duane Eddy! – adds a soulful sound to the numerous vistas sprinkled with motorcycles, though the switch to library world music in the African scenes felt like tone deaf pandering.
On Any Sunday: The Next Chapter should be greeted enthusiastically among the gearheads it’s speaking to. That’s the film’s sole audience, and that’s the only group I’d recommend it to. The only exception would be if you enjoy hearing “motorcycles are so cool” for 90 minutes. Lacking a magnetic force like Steve McQueen (Sorry, Mickey Rourke, you’re not in his class.), there’s nothing to draw an outsider to this picture. Its main problem is they spend too much time revving up their own engine.