The Bike Thief
British director Matt Chambers relocates the Italian classic Bicycle Thieves to present-day London in his feature debut The Bike Thief. Set over 24 hours, the drama follows a Romanian delivery driver (Alec Secareanu) who works for one of those kebab and pizza places with names like Burger Mania or Chicken Den. When his moped gets stolen, he must race to find it or risks losing his precarious job and living situation. Think of it like a two-wheeled version of the movie Locke. Let’s call it Bike Locke.
The picture steers well clear of the high-concept pep found in bike courier thriller Premium Rush, and doesn’t possess the vibrancy of a film like Rocks. Instead Chambers delivers a Ken-Loach-after-dark dissection of the gig economy and Brexit Britain. Even in the multicultural capital, the Eastern European protagonist constantly bumps up against suspicion and a bureaucracy that’s harder to navigate than the London roads by night.
The city is beautifully shot, eschewing the usual landmarks in favour of brutalist residential blocks and high streets peppered with Sports Directs and Claire’s Accessories. This might be the most London ever seen on screen – impressive considering the film clocks in at under 80 minutes. These glowing night shoots are contrasted with the cramped council flat the driver shares with his two young children and his wife Elena (Anamaria Marinca), who works as a cleaner.
He is only credited as “The Rider”, his motorbike helmet adding to the sense of isolation, dislocation and anonymity that challenges the audience to think about the people who bring us our food. When he desperately contemplates stealing a bike from another faceless figure, viewers are pushed to consider whether this other driver is having a similarly bad night. This empathetic strain even extends to the sound design, which makes a feature of The Rider’s breathing as though one is with him inside the helmet.
The night closes in on him over the course of the movie, its street-level tension, moody score and natural performances painting a confrontational and compassionate depiction of the immigrant experience; a considered yet concrete slab of social realism.
The Bike Thief is released digitally on demand on 8th May 2021.
Watch the trailer for The Bike Thief here: