Experiencing a ride with The 12 O’Clock Boys is a ride that one never forgets.
12 O’Clock Boys
Who would have thought a documentary about some urban dirt bike riders in Baltimore could be so fascinating? Apparently Lofty Nathan did, and so will you after watching his directorial debut, 12 O’Clock Boys. This indie documentary follows a highly entertaining young boy for three years as he attempts to join a dirt bike gang called The 12 O’Clock Boys. Through his eyes we are able to explore this interesting subculture as well as inner city life from an unique perspective. By the end, you will have experienced a ride with The 12 O’Clock Boys, and that is a ride that one never forgets.
For those not privy to the subculture of street dirt bike riding in Baltimore, a group of dirt bikers that call themselves The 12 O’Clock Boys occasionally ride down neighborhood streets. The group, sometimes a hundred or so strong, cruise through traffic and pop wheelies to show off. And that is actually how they get their name. Because when leaning all the way back and getting their front wheel as high in the air as they can, they are in the noon position. The good riders take it a step further and combine other feats like throwing a leg up over the handlebars while performing the wheelie and moving at a fast rate.
This kind of riding is as dangerous as it sounds which is why dozens of riders lose their lives every year from accidents. But when the local police try to intervene, they sometimes make the situation even worse. This is especially true when officers try to chase down the bikers with their vehicles, which often results in hurt pedestrians who are helplessly caught in the pursuit. So the police put the “no chase” law into place in order to protect everyone involved. Of course, obeying that policy means they are also much less effective at stopping the riders, even when they have a police helicopter watching from up above.
At the center of the documentary is a young boy named Pug who looks up to The 12 O’Clock Boys and hopes for nothing more than to be a member of the group. This thirteen-year-old boy has a striking bit of confidence along with an unique personality. Even his soft, raspy voice is full of character, which the filmmaker wisely makes the most of by allowing Pug to narrate the documentary. But do not be fooled by his age or obscenity-filled vocabulary, Pug’s intelligence extends beyond just his street smarts.
Living in a very poor and dangerous Baltimore environment, there are many worse things that Pug could get himself into than a local dirt bike gang. After all, the group’s intent is not to harm people. Riding their bikes allows them to escape whatever problems they are facing and to feel peaceful, if only for a short while. But Pug’s obsession with bikes has his mother Coco worried for several reasons. Obviously safety is a big concern, although his fixation on riding puts his education in the rear view mirror.
Lofty Nathan’s documentary is absolutely gorgeous to look at. The signature shots of the film are the awe-inspiring slow motion captures of riders performing life-threating stunts along with a perfectly accompanying peaceful melody. This combination makes the stunts seem breathtakingly magical, and it allows the audience to experience exactly how Pug sees the riders through his eyes.
12 O’Clock Boys is almost like watching an episode of Cops, only instead of riding inside a police car you are experiencing the wild ride from the other perspective. And while the film does provide an insight of life in impoverished areas of Baltimore, the focus is thankfully not on violent acts of murder or drug deals. Many of the bikers ride so they can lose themselves in the moment, forgetting the hardships they may be experiencing. In a way, riding brings all kinds of people together; no matter if you are from the east side or west side, you ride as a pack. As soon as you start watching 12 O’Clock Boys, you will not be able to look away.