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From Charm City Kings (2020), dir. Angel Manuel Soto (image courtesy 42West)

For years, youth dirt-biking culture has thrived on the streets of Baltimore. Though the vehicles are illegal, for safety reasons, police aren’t allowed to engage in pursuit of them, and so enthusiasts have been able to ride freely. The 2013 documentary 12 O’Clock Boys followed a few young men who are part of this world, and now Charm City Kings, a fictional adaptation of its story, has been released on HBO MAX.

Directed by Angel Manuel Soto, the film follows Mouse (Jahi Di’Allo Winston), a teen torn behind his idolization of dirt-biker Blax (rapper Meek Mill in his acting debut) and remonstrations by his mother Terri (Teyonah Parris) and police officer mentor Rivers (Will Catlett) to stay away from any illegal activity. While disappointingly beholden to certain clichés (the plot turns to the kind of violence the original doc never did), the performances, especially by Winston and Mill, are tremendous. Anyone in search of a skillfully made look at youthful angst and rebellion should seek this out.

Charm City Kings is available to stream on HBO MAX.

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Dan Schindel

Dan Schindel is Associate Editor for Documentary at Hyperallergic. He lives and works in New York.