×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

SLC Punk

Feature scenarist-helmer James Merendino got a solid aud response to "SLC Punk," but then the night's odds were stacked in his favor: How could an opening-night Park City crowd not embrace a movie whose raison d'etat often seemed to be giving Salt Lake City the single-digit salute?

With:
Stevo - Matthew Lillard Bob - Michael Goorjian Trish - Annabeth Gish Sandy - Jennifer Lien Father - Christopher McDonald Sean - Devon Sawa Mike - Jason Segel Brandy - Summer Phoenix John the Mod - James Duval Mark - Til Schweiger Eddie - Adam Pascal Jennifer- Chiara Barzini Chris- Kevin Breznahan

Feature scenarist-helmer James Merendino got a solid aud response to “SLC Punk,” but then the night’s odds were stacked in his favor: How could an opening-night Park City crowd not embrace a movie whose raison d’etat often seemed to be giving Salt Lake City the single-digit salute? In the wider world, this energetic but poorly structured, rather self-congratulatory look at spike-haired rebelliousness in mid-’80s Utah could strike unbiased viewers as more grating than gratifying. Distribber Sony Classics might well lean hard on the soundtrack’s vintage ramalama hits in hopes of striking a nostalgic twentysomething chord. But just as pic’s protagonist misses the ironic lameness of an “anarchistic” philosophy being articulated by rich-kid brat bound for law school, so “SLC Punk” itself doesn’t quite grasp how its slick, flashy package undermines any actual punk cred.

Blue-haired Stevo (Matthew Lillard) shares a duly graffiti-sprayed and trashed apartment with mohawk’d best bud Heroin Bob (Michael Goorjian), who’s so named for his extreme abhorrence of needles rather than any substance use. The two like to start fights — particularly with “rednecks,” who they like even less than hippies, New Wavers, metalheads, or other miscellaneous other types — smash things, get drunk, etc. Why? Because, like, they’re rebelling against the System of course!

A major problem with “SLC Punk” is that it views its characters’ escapades on the same level as they themselves do: as edgy, raw, rule-breaking shit. Unfortunately, what we see looks a lot more like a suburban fashion statement, for all the voiceover railing against just such “posers.” As written — and played by the frenetic Lillard — Stevo seems more petulant than genuinely angry. He is evidently getting excellent grades in pre-law study (though the film carefully avoids any uncool glimpses of academia), has divorced but indulgent parents and, in the end, simply, shruggingly announces he’s off to Harvard Law School after all. So much for anarchy.

Though never very clever, Merendino’s episodic screenplay does have a few comic highlights that his direction handles well: Notably needle-shy Bob’s unhappy trip to the hospital, the results of fellow traveler Sean’s (Devon Sawa) acid mega-dosing, and a flashback to Bob and Stevo’s pre-punk-makeover, a junior high geekdom of Rush tapes and “Dungeons & Dragons” games.

Helming’s relentless high energy — boosted by freeze-frames, staccato cuts, fast-motion, and other gambits — proves more wearying than infectious over the long haul, however, and it tends to underline the basic weakness of the material. Character development is next to nil; there’s so little dramatic substance built up that when a major character abruptly dies near the end, the only emotion stirred is irritation at such blatant contrivance.

Cast is committed, though given little to work with. Annabeth Gish, Jennifer Lien and Summer Phoenix clock indistinct screentime as various girlfriends. German star Til Schweiger manages to make a vivid impression as Mark, a wealthy European passer-by whose excesses briefly make everyone else look quite firmly grounded.

The soundtrack is, needless to say, wallpapered loudly with (mostly) classic punk faves by the Dead Kennedys, Gen X, the Stooges, Minor Threat, Blondie, Ramones, etc. Design elements and Greg Littlewood’s wide-format lensing are eye-catching, though film might actually have been better served by a grittier visual aesthetic.

SLC Punk

Production: A Sony Pictures Classics release of a Beyond Films presentation of a Blue Tulip production. Produced by Sam Maydew and Peter Ward. Executive producers, Jan De Bont, Michael Peyser, Andrea Kreuzhage. Directed, written by James Merendino.

Crew: Camera (color, Panavision), Greg Littlewood); editor, Esther P. Russel; music supervisor, Melanie Miller; production designer, Charlotte Malmloff; costume designer, Fiora; sound recordist (Dolby THX), Doug Cameron; associate producers, Katrina Fernandez, Glenn Salloum; casting, Risa Bramon Garcia, Randi Hiller. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (Park City Opening Night Premiere), Jan. 22, 1999. Running time: 97 MIN.

With: Stevo - Matthew Lillard Bob - Michael Goorjian Trish - Annabeth Gish Sandy - Jennifer Lien Father - Christopher McDonald Sean - Devon Sawa Mike - Jason Segel Brandy - Summer Phoenix John the Mod - James Duval Mark - Til Schweiger Eddie - Adam Pascal Jennifer- Chiara Barzini Chris- Kevin Breznahan

More Film

  • Nicolas Cage

    Film News Roundup: Nicolas Cage's 'Jiu Jitsu' Obtains Cyprus Support

    In today’s film news roundup, Cyprus is backing Nicolas Cage’s “Jiu Jitsu”; “The Nanny” and “Amityville 1974” are moving forward; “Milk” is returning to theaters; and Garrett Hedlund’s “Burden” is getting distribution. CYPRUS REBATE Nicolas Cage’s “Jiu Jitsu” has become the first international film to use Cyprus’ new tax credit-rebate program by filming entirely in [...]

  • Zhao Tao

    Zhao Tao Gets Candid in Kering's Shanghai Women in Motion Showcase Interview

    Zhao Tao is one of the most recognizable faces in Chinese art cinema thanks to her longtime collaboration with director Jia Zhangke, whom she married in 2012. From 2000’s “Platform” to last year’s “Ash is Purest White,” her work has plumbed the moral depths of modern China and brought stories of the country’s drastic change [...]

  • Skyline on the Huangpu River with

    Chinese-American Film Festival Seeks Particular Dialog

    With U.S.-China ties at an ever-sinking low, the Chinese-American Film and TV Festival on Tuesday pledged to improve communications between the two countries —  at a Chinese language-only press conference Tuesday that had few foreigners present. Most attendees who took to the stage to give congratulatory speeches that seemed more intent on heaping praise upon [...]

  • Murder Mystery

    Netflix Reveals Record-Breaking Stats for Sandler-Aniston 'Murder Mystery' Flick

    “Murder Mystery,” the latest Adam Sandler film to debut on Netflix, broke viewing records on the streaming service, the company revealed Tuesday. The film, which is co-headlined by Jennifer Aniston, was seen by close to 30.9 million households in its first 3 days, according to a tweet sent out Tuesday afternoon. 🚨ADAM SANDLER AND JENNIFER [...]

  • Agents Accuse Writers Guild of Refusing

    Writers Guild 'Plans to Respond' to Agents' Proposal as Frustration Mounts

    In a sign of increasing frustration, Hollywood agents have accused the Writers Guild of America of foot-dragging in the bitter two-month dispute. “It has become clear as more days pass that the Guild is not interested in making a deal,” said the negotiating committee for the agents in statement issued Tuesday. “Over the past year, [...]

  • Jermaine Fowler arrives at the 69th

    Jermaine Fowler to Co-Star With Eddie Murphy in 'Coming 2 America' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Jermaine Fowler is set to play one of the leads opposite Eddie Murphy in Paramount’s sequel “Coming 2 America,” sources tell Variety. “Hustle & Flow” helmer Craig Brewer is on board to direct the pic with the studio planning an August 7, 2020 release. Plot details of “Coming 2 America” are unknown, as are the [...]

  • Henry Golding attends the Fragrance Foundation

    Henry Golding Starts Long House Shingle With 'Inheritance,' 'Harrington's Greatest Hits'

    “Crazy Rich Asians” star Henry Golding has started Long House Productions in partnership with China’s Starlight Cultural Entertainment Group with two features in the works. Golding’s first feature under the Long House banner is action adventure “The Inheritance,” based on an original story idea by Alistair Hudson and Golding. Hudson is writing the script for [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content