A movie those who ride can relate to

The Road to Paloma has an authenticity bikers can associate with. It starts with protagonist Wolf. Strong in stature yet easygoing and likeable, he adheres to the principles of family first, his convictions as a Mojave not far behind. Motorcycles are a conduit for friendship. It has anti-establishment tones, a denominator commonly found in club members. Riding scenes are abundant, beautiful vignettes of the American Southwest. And how can you not like his bike, a 1956 Panhead with a 1948 Springer front end.

But it isn’t the quintessential biker movie. On the surface, it’s a story of a man who took the law into his own hands after conventional law failed him. It is a quest – a quest to spread his departed mother’s ashes around a pristine lake at the base of the Grand Tetons, and a quest to see loved ones one last time. Motorcycles play a role in the movie but aren’t the primary focus.

In a sense, Wolf is a tragic hero. Through his relationships and friendships, you get the sense he is just. He’s likeable, soft spoken for the most part, and quick to offer help to others in need. His likeability makes the fact that he killed a man that much harder to swallow. But his reason for killing the man who violated his mother is justifiable because, if viewers put themselves in his shoes, I’d wager most feel like they would have done the same thing.

Cash’s character is also identifiable with bikers. A hard-drinkin’ rocker, fighter and loner, he and Wolf strike up a friendship initially because they both ride. Going through the hardships of divorce and with little direction in life, Cash’s motorcycle is one of the few constants in his life. The open road offers release and a semblance of clarity in an otherwise convoluted world. In the end, he sticks by his friend, even when he learns that Wolf killed a man. Bikers often follow the mantra of “through thick or thin.” Just about everybody who has that one best riding buddy can relate.

The cinematography strikes a chord in bikers as well, wonderful images of two friends on the open road, a rider suicide shifting his old rigid Pan. Tramping through the desert, sleeping off the beaten path next to your bike huddled up to a small fire. Seeing the images of the Californian desert or the lake at the base of the Tetons stokes the fires of wanderlust, to get out and ride, to seek out the locales serving as backdrops for the movie.

Then there’s Wolf’s bike. In an interview by Choppertown’s Zack Coffman with Jason Momoa, the lead actor who also co-wrote and directed the movie, we learned that Momoa has had the bike since he was 19, saying it was “the first thing I ever bought.” To tailor the bike more to Momoa’s character in the movie, he took it to Love Cycles in Phoenix, Arizona, who got the kick-starting rigid dialed in just right. From Coffman’s interview we learned it's got a Model “A” back fender, a vintage cop’s headlight, a seat made from an old piece of leather Momoa had, a custom tank, an internal throttle, no front brake and a rear drum. It also was outfitted with a suicide shifter, which Momoa said he’d never used before “so that was interesting.”

The Road to Paloma has a sad tone to it, established by both its theme and music. The fact that viewers can sympathize with the likeable Wolf deepens the emotion. When Wolf says, “I’m not sorry for what I did, I’m sorry for what I lost,” you can empathize with his plight.

The movie is rated “R” because it deals with adult themes. There’s profanity, a little nudity, and a rape scene. Real world issues, for sure, but the Road to Paloma isn’t for everybody. At times, the plot does move along slowly, but to me it all plays its part in character development. Before the movie is over, Wolf is somebody you like and respect, which makes the ending that much more tragic – but fitting. While it won’t win any awards in the mainstream, the Road to Paloma can strike a chord with others who don’t fit into this mainstream, a classification most true bikers fall into.