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1 item from 1999

Film review: 'SLC Punk'

15 April 1999 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

In "SLC Punk", a punk rock satire set in Reagan-era Salt Lake City, protagonist Stevo (Matthew Lillard) and company spend most of their time engaged in a sociological turf war against neo-Nazi skinheads, mods, rednecks and, worst of all, poseurs -- those lame wannabes who shout out "Anarchy in the U.K.!" in suburban shopping malls.

While the concept of growing up punk in the Mormon capital of America certainly holds some ripe promise, writer-director James Merendino's finished product ends up feeling about as authentic as one of Stevo's skin-cap Mohawk hairdos.

It's a poseur "Trainspotting".

This Sony Classic Pictures release will unlikely cause any boxoffice commotion, although those who experience a pang of nostalgia at the mere hint of safety-pin chic might catch up with it at the video store.

Lillard, an actor with a nice, loopy energy, plays tour guide, constantly speaking to the camera as he introduces his friends, including best buddy Bob (Michael Goorjian), and his stomping grounds.

The son of a former hippie-turned-lawyer (Christopher McDonald) who rationalizes his career choice as not selling out to the system but "buying in," Stevo ultimately learns that the trappings of being anti-establishment can, in fact, become predictable and conformist in their own right.

While Lillard works hard to engage the viewer, and the rest of the cast -- including Goorjian, Til Schweiger as a Eurotrash party "supplier" and James Duval as a token mod accepted into Stevo's group -- does some fine character work, the talking into the camera and endless voice-overs quickly grow tiresome.

In relating his loosely autobiographical story of youthful restlessness, Merendino lets all the aimlessness seep into the underachieving plotting and character development. There's a likable playfulness to be found, but the film cries out for an edgier context in regard to its time and place.

His direction is more accomplished, although if you take away the colorful clothing and quirky production design (courtesy of costume designer Fiora and Charlotte Malmloff, respectively) the residual visual style is, to quote an old Sex Pistols song, pretty vacant.

Speaking of which, the picture should have taken its tonal cue from its well-picked selection of seminal punk and new wave tunes (available on the Hollywood Records soundtrack) by the likes of the Ramones, the Stooges, The Dead Kennedys and Billy Idol's old band, Generation X.

There's not a poseur in the bunch.


Sony Pictures Classics

Director-screenwriter:James Merendino

Producers:Sam Maydew, Peter Ward

Executive producers:Jan De Bont, Michael Peyser, Andrea Kreuzhage

Director of photography:Greg Littlewood

Production designer:Charlotte Malmloff

Editor:Esther P. Russel

Costume designer:Fiora



Stevo:Matthew Lillard

Bob:Michael Goorjian

Trish:Annabeth Gish

Sandy:Jennifer Lien

Father:Christopher McDonald

Sean:Devon Sawa

Brandy:Summer Phoenix

Mark:Til Schweiger

Running time -- 97 minutes

MPAA rating: R


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