6.6/10
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25 user 41 critic

What We Do Is Secret (2007)

A biopic of punk legend Darby Crash and his band, the Germs.

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2 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Pat Smear
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Don Bolles
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Michelle
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Jena
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Malissa
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Rob Henley
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Chris Ashford
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Belinda
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Claude 'Kickboy Face' Bessey
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Becky
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Amber
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Brendan Mullen
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Casey Cola
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Storyline

A biopic of punk legend Darby Crash and his band, the Germs.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Biography | Drama | Music

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for drug use, language and brief sexuality | See all certifications »
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Details

Official Sites:

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Country:

Language:

Release Date:

8 August 2008 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

То что мы делаем - тайна  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$5,888 (USA) (8 August 2008)

Gross:

$58,776 (USA) (17 October 2008)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

David Arquette was attached to play Darby Crash when the project was in development. See more »

Goofs

At the end of the film, Pat is seen watching a news report of John Lennon's death, which is intercut with scenes of Darby preparing to OD. Darby died almost a whole day before Lennon's assassination. See more »

Quotes

Darby Crash: Everything works in circles. Like sometimes you're doing something, and a year later you're back at the same point. You understand that? So circle one, is what we're doing now, and someday we'll probably do circle two.
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Soundtracks

Circle One
Performed By Germs
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User Reviews

Punk stardom: nasty, brutish, and short
2 September 2008 | by (Berkeley, California) – See all my reviews

Last year there was an accomplished little film called Control by Anton Corbijn starring Samantha Morton, Sam Riley, Alexandra Maria Lara, et al., with beautiful black and white images of England evoking the short life of Ian Curtis, the lead singer of Joy Division, an English rock group of the 80's. This is the same thing, only the singer and the group, "legendary" and "seminal" though they may be among followers of punk, are less remembered among music fans, and the extent of the legend hardly becomes clear in this version. The focus is a lead singer who runs a group called The Germs. The film-making, which mixes dramatized sequences with fake documentary interviews, seeks to evoke the LA punk scene of the late 70's and early 80's. The scene and the film are sloppier, the concert sequences are more violent and less musical, the characters are less defined, and the ending is sudden. Yet in the opinion of some fans, it's not violent or sloppy enough, and one can see their point.

The lead singer in question, played by the successful TV actor Shane West, is a professed Fascist, though anarchy seems more his style, who takes on the name Darby Crash. He has been expelled from a special high school whose teachers proclaim him ungovernable but brilliant. He gives other band members names like Lorna Doom (Bijou Phillips) and Pat Smear (Rick Gonzalez). Gonzales has wonderful cheekbones, but never seems like a punker. Darby tells a French interviewer that he has a five-year plan--indication of his ambition but also a hint that his days are intentionally numbered. He's giving himself that long to make it big; perhaps also that long to live? So it went, anyway. At some point he seems to have said to the band they'd be as big as the Beatles. Ironically, he offed himself the night John Lennon was shot. In a late sequence Darby's cohorts mourn Lennon as they watch reports on TV of his death, while the scene cuts back and forth to their lead singer, alone with a girl groupie pledged to go out with him, deliberately overdosing.

This movie may awaken nostalgia or longing in those who wish life were crazier than it is now. The LA punk scene was a time of true mayhem, which is conveyed here even if the styles and interactions don't always quite fit the period. The group is assembled haphazardly including two girls recruited on the basis that they should have no talent and not be able to play an instrument. The Germs began to play without knowledge of the rudiments of music or their axes and their energy grew out of the outrage of the audience, which itself seemed more in search of violence and anger than art from the stage. This was a time of "joke bands," set up with some gimmick, like a male lead singer wearing a dress, and wailing laments that were not taken seriously by the band. The Germs were more serious, insofar as their leader cut himself and bled in public. The aim was to risk everything, and The Germs got banned from one music venue after another. At one point they stage a comeback by changing their name to "GI," for "Germs Incognito." They have trouble finding a drummer and run through nine. The one who sticks is a guy from Arizona who calls himself Don Bolles (Noah Segan). Segan has a wide-eyed eagerness and energy that, faute de mieux, has to pass for Bolles' personality. A homosexual relationship seems to develop between a certain Robby Henley (Ashton Holmes), who hero-worships Darby, but maybe he just wants to be in the band. Later he replaces Bolles as drummer through a violent misunderstanding. A woman called Amber (Missy Doty) becomes manager, over someone else, by virtue of paying for Darby's and the others' drinks and drugs.

Briefly Penelope Spheeris becomes a character, shown working with a big movie camera on her film, The Decline of Western Civilization--a reminder that this is a scene that has been well documented. This is a fictionalized recreation, with documentary touches. In that respect more than Control it resembles Fulton and Pepe's 2005 Brothers of the Head, which cunningly presents multiple forms of fake footage for an invented Siamese twin punk band. But both of those deserve higher ratings than What We Do Is Secret, though some may value the raw crudity of the concert sequences here, rarely recreated with such ferocity.

The movie is less successful, indeed makes little effort, at showing how The Germs interacted with and influenced, or were influenced by, other punk bands of the time; and in detailing the personalities involved; or specific songs. Datelines indicate times and venues of main Germs concerts, and the making of an album is briefly sketched in. But concerts are represented by one partial, ill-defined song each. Contrast Control where some concerts get extended sequences, and songs come through to even an uninformed viewer. Here, the atmosphere outside of violent clashes between people, boasting by Darby, and the in-your-face nosh pit concert scenes, is not really that punk. The clothes and manners could be any beatnik hippie depressed young folk of the last fifty years, and the effort to define a moment through a key group and voice is a failure.


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