Opens Friday, October 11, at the Fifth Avenue Cinemas and Granville 7
A current ad for Hard Core Logo quotes a critic as saying the new Canadian film is "better and funnier than Spinal Tap". That's a bit like calling apples firmer and more flavourful than oranges. Sure, both movies happen to take the mockumentary approach to the fortunes of fictional rock bands, but the similarity ends there. Where This is Spinal Tap–uniquely for its time–drew scathing humour from its absolute flatness of tone, the Vancouver-based Logo matches its stylistic excesses to the music and lifestyle of the band at hand. (Remember, Rob Reiner and Christopher Guest, et al respected nothing about their putative combo.) Mainly, though, it kicks ass.
Director Bruce McDonald has never been known for his cinematic restraint (or when he has been, as in Dance Me Outside, it hasn't served him well), and he's not much of a wordsmith, either. Here, though, his roving, anarchic eye is well-matched with sharp, frequently obscene dialogue by Noel S. Baker (working from Michael Turner's book) and the slash-and-burn editing of Reginald Harkema. Add an appropriately loose-limbed cast with an improvisatory bent, plus a gnarly, latter-day punk score (by Schaun Tozer and others), and you have all the makings of a movie you shouldn't bring home to mama–unless mama happened to be a Sex Pistols freak in 1977.
For those concerned with actual story, there is one, sort of, although it takes a while to sort out. Vancouver's Hard Core Logo, we're told, consists of veteran pregrunge rockers (they're the grunge that grows on grunge) who–like D.O.A., for one example–have not suffered the ravages of time and fashion well, even if they have managed to survive and maintain a certain kind of beat-up dignity. Logo's led by Joe Dick (head Headstone Hugh Dillon) whose uncompromising attitude toward the music biz, and the bottle, has kept him well out of the big leagues. His guitarist and childhood pal, Billy Tallent (Callum Keith Rennie), on the other hand, has the stuff to make it in the new, prepackaged punk environment.
When the band agrees to a reunion tour, there's mucho tension between the old buds, and much of their push-pull is beyond the ken of a doofy drummer called Pipefitter (Bernie Coulson) and neohippie bassist John Oxenberger (John Pyper-Ferguson). The latter, a borderline schizophrenic, loses his medication partway through the journey, adding to the fun. His manic journal-keeping, however, gives the band–and the movie–its only note of introspection.
On the road in a rusty old van, our boys play halls big and small, spew beer at each other, smoke a bazillion cigarettes, and generally act like should-be-arrested adolescents. They also run into an old mentor, a beanpole Brit (Julian Richings) whose role in the punkoid "movement" is alluded to but never made clear. He turns them on to one of the grosser, and funnier, acid trips ever captured on film (let's just say it involves a farm animal and power tools) before the band hits Edmonchuk for a particularly sensational(istic), but probably logical, close to the tour and their tale.
It's hard to say what viewers, especially non-nostalgic ones, should take from this pseudorealistic adventure (McDonald flirts with various Brechtian devices by having himself and his crew–as themselves–float in and out of the frame), other than the usual don't-try-this-at-home advice. The performances are certainly memorable, with Rennie establishing himself as a Tallent of particularly bankable charisma. Mostly, though, the movie–which is dumber but almost as good as Sid & Nancy–offers an exhilarating parallel to the music and its purveyors: Hard, fun, fast, and born to come to a nasty end.