Cycle Kick is not the movie it at first appears to be. The opening scenes of the film are clearly the set up to a typical sports movie. The title itself refers to a flashy soccer move, more commonly called a bicycle kick.
A man stares wistfully at an empty pitch. A voiceover explains that, in life and in soccer, you either “kick or get kicked.” A coach quits his job at private university when he’s told to play the sons of donors over more talented athletes. A young man watches the wealthy university kids play before he resumes cutting the grass of the playing field.
Within five minutes, the soccer-as-life metaphor is dropped until the climax. The rest of the movie is about two brothers and their bicycle.
This narrative misdirect points to the main problem with Cycle Kick: it feels like a rough cut and not a finished movie. Scenes end abruptly or transition awkwardly. The actors deliver their lines flatly, as if they were just blocking for the camera. Side plots and other storylines are underdeveloped.
Cycle Kick‘s runtime is unusually short at approximately 75 minutes, yet shots are frequently recycled. In one scene, the lawnmower guy, Ramu (Nishan Nanaiah) — the older of the two bike-owning brothers — grins while staring into space, supposedly thinking of how much he loves his little brother, Deva (Dwij Yadav). A short while later, the same shot of Ramu grinning is used to show him thinking of the girl he has a crush on.
It’s not as if there aren’t opportunities to flesh the plot out more, thereby generating more usable footage. The core story of the orphaned brothers and their bike is touching. Ramu needs the bike so that he can finish his education at the public college and earn extra money working odd jobs. Deva wears braces on both of his legs, and the bike makes the journey home faster when Ramu picks him up from school.
There’s a less interesting sideplot involving one of Ramu’s classmates, Ali (Sunny Hinduja), who wants his own bike in order to impress a girl. When the coach (Tom Alter) suggests the boys share custody of the bike, it allows them to find common ground and learn empathy. Or at least it would in a better movie.
A climactic soccer match is tacked on without setup. Coach gathers up Ramu, Ali and their buddies and explains that the public college has to beat the posh university team in a soccer tournament or they won’t be able to compete again for four years. To this point, the public college soccer team hasn’t existed, let alone practiced together or done any of the team bonding stuff that normally happens in sports movies.
Nope. Cycle Kick needed an ending, so might as well make it one that requires more action than acting and feels familiar to audiences. Never mind that it makes no sense.