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'SLC Punk'

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 23, 1999

  Movie Critic

SLC Punk
Matthew Lillard stars in "SLC Punk." (Sony Pictures Classics)

James Merendino
Matthew Lillard;
Michael A. Goorjian;
Annabeth Gish;
Jennifer Lien;
Christopher McDonald;
Devon Sawa
Running Time:
1 hour, 37 minutes
Contains sexual scenes, some violence and much profanity
There is deliciously subversive potential in James Merendino's movie: life during the Reagan 1980s, as seen through the eyes of a punk-student narrator living in Salt Lake City (hence the title).

The punk is Stevo (Matthew Lillard), the intelligent son of affluent parents who goes to college essentially to spit at "poseurs," then scream, dance and flail to groups like the Dead Kennedys. A determined anarchist, he lives in a hole and maintains a network of out-there weirdos, including a paranoid Eurotrasher (Til Schweiger) who spends money on stereos, big video screens and guns, and Heroin Bob (Michael Goorjian), a friend so-named because of his aversion to needles.

Lillard, who sports a blue mohawk for most of the picture, ranges from very amusing to a little embarrassing. (There's a sensitive crying scene I could have done without.) And while some of the characters around him make an amusing sideshow, others are silly, dull or tedious. Ultimately, "SLC Punk!" doesn't have enough dimension to maintain dramatic interest. Its cop-out/sellout dilemma – in which Stevo weighs falling in love with a sweethearted girl (Summer Phoenix) and going to Harvard Law School, instead of living the punk life – is hardly an earthshattering quandary.

The movie gets interesting when Phoenix, a woman with intriguing presence, enters the picture. But that's right at the end.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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