A 'Hardcore' Look at Punk
When Ronald Reagan was elected president in 1980, an obscure, far-reaching and influential form of rock music almost immediately flared up as a spontaneous response. Hard-core punk, embodied by such seminal bands as Black Flag, Minor Threat and Bad Brains, offered a fast, angry and aggressive alternative to the brand of supply-side optimism holding political sway.
With the documentary "American Hardcore," director Paul Rachman and writer-producer Steven Blush deliver a swiftly moving, dense primer on the musical movement that inspired such later bands as Nirvana and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. What's more, they give local bands Minor Threat and especially Bad Brains their historical due. The filmmakers snagged lots of good interviews with such formative figures as Mike Watt, Jack Grisham and Paul "H.R." Hudson, the hugely talented frontman for Bad Brains whose mental deterioration sadly brought that brilliant band's career to a premature end.
The archival video footage in "American Hardcore" is often illegibly muddy, and too often the most unsettling aspects of hard-core -- the gratuitous violence, macho posturing and misogyny -- go unchallenged. But "American Hardcore" stands as a valuable chronicle of a brief and snarling musical movement.
-- Ann Hornaday
American Hardcore R, 100 minutes Contains pervasive profanity and references to sex and drugs (and rock 'n' roll). At Landmark's E Street Cinema.