Choppertown: From the Vault (DVD)

The only things in my vault are some comics books and moldy cheese.

“I just love motorcycles, period. It doesn’t matter what kind, what shape, what size.”
—Rico Fodrey, Sinner

It’s time to pay another visit to tough-guy motorcycle heaven. After receiving accolades for their documentary Choppertown: The Sinners, co-directors Scott Di Lalla and Zack Coffman took their unused footage from the film and created a follow-up, Choppertown: From the Vault. Fortunately for them and us, there was plenty of good material left over, so this disc is not just a bunch of deleted scenes, but a fine companion to the original.

Meet the Sinners, a group of California’s most hardcore motorcycle experts. These huge man-mountains of grease and tattoos usually congregate around Rico Fodrey at his garage to work on their various bikes, homemade amalgams of spare parts and pure ingenuity. In From the Vault, you’ll get more looks at the guys hitting the road on their bikes, performing their rock music at various local gigs, and hanging out in the garage endlessly tweaking their rides.

In many ways, From the Vault mirrors the first film. It has a loose structure, so that we’re following the guys around and getting to know them, but, unlike many documentaries, there’s little to no beginning, middle, and end created in the editing room. Some viewers might be frustrated by this, feeling that the “story” is going nowhere, but this time around, I had no problem just sitting back and seeing where the camera took me next.

The best thing about this one is that it never once feels like leftovers. For all the fascinating footage that made it into the first film, there’s plenty to go around this time as well. Some of the best moments here are when the guys open up about their philosophy about life. Being a Sinner isn’t just about the choppers, it’s also about friendship and loyalty. Not anyone can be a Sinner, and once you are, you know you can rely on your fellow Sinners to help you out if you ever need it.

A big part of this movie, even more than the first one, is the music. As noted above, many of the Sinners are part-time musicians, and their hard-rockin’ tunes are a highlight here. There are a number of “music video” sequences here, in which we see footage of the Sinners on the road or tinkering in the garage while an entire song plays. In addition, we learn that the Sinners fix up not just choppers, but sweet-looking old-school hot rods as well. And there’s the borderline terrifying scene in which some Sinners show off some of huge guns they collect.

One edge that the first film has over this one is that it shows us much more of the Sinners’ lives. From the Vault feels a little less “all access,” in that the action takes place mostly in and around the garage. We get a sense of who the Sinners are, but not what their lives are like. Therefore, this one isn’t 100 percent a stand-alone film, so first time viewers will want to check out Choppertown: The Sinners first, then move onto this one.

The full-frame picture is nice and sharp, and the audio is quite excellent. I love my 5.1 tracks as much as the next guy, but this disc is yet another example of a stereo track that sounds amazing. The rock songs are booming, and the bikes’ engines are even more booming. The extra features are highlighted by an interview with Di Lalla and Coffman, in which they discuss the movie’s history and how much it has meant to them. Teaser trailers for both films are also here. If you can’t get enough of the music, a bonus “Music to Wrench By” CD is included with songs from various Sinner bands and musicians, such as the Whitewalls, the Heathens, the Highway Murderers, the Harbortown Saints, and James Intveld.

Just as I enjoyed meeting the Sinners in Choppertown, I enjoyed revisiting them in From the Vault.

The Verdict

Not guilty.

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