97 minutes | Rated: R
Opened: Friday, April 30, 1999 (in SF)
(Various play dates elsewhere)
Directed by James Merendino
Starring Mattew Lillard, Michael Goorjian, Annabeth Gish, Jennifer Lien, Christopher McDonald, Devon Sawa, Jason Segel, Summer Phoenix & James Duval
SMALL SCREEN SHRINKAGE: 15%|
LETTERBOX: COULDN'T HURT
Instant video cult classic for anyone who was even a little bit edgy in high school, especially in the '80s. Don't miss.
VIDEO RELEASE: 10/12/99
'SLC Punk!' humorously nostalgic about the metaphorical mosh pit of '80s punk philosophy
In "SLC Punk!" writer-director James Merendino paints such a veritable, aggressively freeform and nihilistic portrait of the tiny Salt Lake City punk scene, circa 1985, that you just know he was there.
He gets the rabid social politics and understands the necessary cultural bent toward belligerence. He can write a double-caffeinated voice-over brimming with drug-induced psychological and sociological observations from a punker point of view, yet make them lucid enough for sober consumption.
In "SLC Punk!" he not only delivers his audience into the metaphorical mosh pit of determined anarchy that was the punk philosophy, he also has a sense of humor about it.
Merendino scores big with this tilted but insightful comedy about hardcore agitators in the land of the Latter Day Saints that takes on a structure as delightfully discombobulated as its subject -- a college-educated anarchist named Stevo who is starting to become disenchanted with his blue-hair-and-bong-hits lifestyle.
Perfectly cast as Stevo is Matthew Lillard -- Gen X and Y's most hyperactive character actor from "Scream," "She's All That," "Wing Commander" and "Hackers" -- whose in-your-face, perpetual motion acting style is exactly what the role calls for.
Often breaking the fourth wall, Stevo is our tour guide to the underground world he inhabits with a few other outcasts like ironically needle-phobic Heroin Bob (Michael Goorjian), demonic den mother Trish (Annabeth Gish) and his raccoon-eyed, rat-haired girlfriend Sandy (Jennifer Lien).
Without ever becoming a bore, he blankets film with a stream-of-consciousness commentary of droll asides and tenants of punk wisdom, many regarding the pecking order of Salt Lake youth sects (The movie's opening line: "I f---in' hate rednecks.").
Merendino's kinetic editing and establishment of an authentic punker atmosphere give "SLC Punk!" a tweaked true-to-life tinge and Lillard's precision over-the-top performance betrays subtly the inevitable chinks in Stevo's anarchist armor. A couple of the best scenes in the film are moments in which Stevo's ridicule of his suburban poster boy pop -- a former hippie who wants him to go to Harvard Law -- begins to give way to begrudging respect.
With its cult of personality lead, its oddly nostalgic air and its nail-on-the-head ambiance of rebellion, "SLC Punk!" has great potential as the kind of sleeper hit that segues into midnight movie legend.