The JOE-DOWN Reviews ‘Punk’s Dead: SLC Punk 2’

This is an installment for a series on this blog where Joe Brown, Sports Editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle, and I have a back-and-forth review of a movie. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, I picked “Punk’s Dead: SLC Punk 2.”

Starring: Machine Gun Kelly, Devon Sawa, Ben Schnetzer

Director: James Merendino

Plot Summary: (From IMDB) Ross, Penny and Crash, young… outsiders from different tribes, embark on a road trip to a huge punk show.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: N/A

Our take:

Froemming: “SLC Punk” remains one of my favorite movies. It really resonated with me when it came out: A tale of outsiders who are coming to terms with growing up and apart, and realizing there is more to life than cheap beer, scenes and punk shows. I saw this when I was a senior in high school, and I too was an outcast with many outcast friends — no, we were not punks, but we did have a lot of friends in the punk scene in St. Cloud at the time. It came out at the right time for me, as my friends and I were soon to be parting on different journeys.

So, naturally I was interested in this sequel. And this photo really sums up what I am about to write about this film:

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No, this film doesn’t follow up on what happened to our blue-haired anti-hero from the first film, Stevo. This film follows up Heroin Bob’s ghost complaining about his lame goth kid from beyond the grave.

But before we dig deeper into this (REDACTED) sandwich of a film, Brown, based on our IMs the other night as we both watched this, I take it I found the perfect revenge for “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants?”

Brown: At this point, I’ll be more than happy to share my recommendation to our readers: NO! We’ve been doing this since January and I think this is the worst movie that we have done in the JOE-DOWN. And that list includes a movie with cowboys AND dinosaurs.

And like you, I saw “SLC Punk” when I was a teenager. I wasn’t a punk kid or anything (I did/do like the music), I didn’t have a mohawk and I thought the denim jackets with studs, spikes and patches looked like too much work for too little comfort.

With that said, me hating “SLC Punk 2” is not because of nostalgia. My hatred of “SLC Punk 2” is because this movie, on its own, is hot, flaming garbage.

I need to save some of my rage. Start us off, Froemming.

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Froemming: Well, this film starts with Heroin Bob from the first film giving us an explainer of who and what we are about to watch: The journey of his unbearable goth son getting a beatdown at a punk show.

This film tries way too hard to get us to remember the first film. I mean, it is the only reason we are watching thing called a “movie.” We get Bob, we find out that he knocked up Trish before he overdosed on pain pills he thought were vitamins in the first film, and Trish gave birth to Ross.

I’m just going to get these other, forgotten characters from the first “SLC Punk” out of the way. Sean (the kid who got hit with a sprinkler which caused 112 hits of LSD to soak into his body); we have John the Mod — do not recall him at all from the first film, but he is now a black metal guy; and Eddie, another character I barely remember.

I guess this film could afford Bowie and the Violent Femmes for its soundtrack, but couldn’t afford the acting talents of Matthew Lillard (who played Stevo in the first film).

Brown: Matthew Lillard probably knew better. And this is a guy who had a part in 23 (!!!) Scooby-Doo movies (21 as a voice actor), so his judgement is questionable at best.

No question here, though, Heroin Bob is the most grating part of this movie. He talks down to the viewer and speaks like a Valley girl while bringing everybody up to speed. And it never stops. I wrote in my notes: I’m glad you’re dead, Heroin Bob. I’d like to think I’m not that cynical but man, his job alone in this movie ruined it for me. Everything else just made me go from disappointed to annoyed, all the way to seething.

Froemming: Oh, same here. And remember, Bob was the sympathetic character in the first film. My message to you as I watched this was “And to think the first time I saw SLC Punk I was bummed he died. Now I want him to stay that way and not talk.”

But let’s get to the new generation of punks in Salt Lake City. We have Crash (Machine Gun Kelly) and Penny (Hannah Marks).

Two punks and Ross, who is a goth kid who spouts rhetoric that would make any 15 year old who’s read Dostoyevsky for the first time proud.

They are on a road trip to a punk rock show, and Ross is going through a crisis: He fell in love and had his heart crushed. Now, like the lineage of drunks in his family before him, he is on a bender. Amazing that a guy who’s never drank before can put down damn near a whole case of beer to himself and not die.

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Brown: They put down two cases. There is a scene where I had a genuine laugh where, when they run out of beer, they pull over to a gas station and grab a case of PBR.The clerk asks Ross “You got ID?” Ross: “Yeah, I do,” and walks out, beer in tow. Cool punk scene. Too bad that it came from the most pretentious character I’ve seen in a film.

They play up Ross as this odd soul because he grew up in Trish’s “oddities” shop. How is he an odd soul? Why, he’s a teenager who wears suits with pocket squares with a cane, talking about how he’s a poet for death. He looks like an extra from “Interview With The Vampire.” When a character proclaims he’s a poet for death, you lost me. There’s teenage delusion where you think you know the world, but this is so over the top Ross has his fingertips on Pluto.

I can understand a kid losing it after getting cheated on by his first love. But my God, go back to reading some Poe or whatever the hell you were doing before turning into Barney Gumble.

Froemming: Don’t forget, Ross is living in the shadow of the father he never met. For some insane reason, Bob is still remembered and respected in Salt Lake City — 19 years after he overdosed (his grave is covered with punk graffiti and whatnot like an even sadder Jim Morrison grave).

Nope. Bob did nothing in the first film to warrant such a legacy. I hate this movie so much.

So, Ross wants an adventure on the way to the punk show. He wants to take the long way to wherever the hell this show is taking place. And along the way we get….a bunch of scenes with these kids being drunk and/or on drugs. But Trish and the emo girl who works at her store are worried about Ross.

Brown: While we’re here, let’s touch on our punky group of pals that are taking Ross to the punk version of Valhalla (or whatever the hell they were going to, I don’t know. Punk Valhalla is where Sid and Nancy went).

  • Crash: He’s… uhh… got a big mohawk, a punk jacket and a lot of tattoos for someone who isn’t in his 20s.
  • Penny: She… has pink hair? And may not be straight? And man, do her punk and goth friend not let her forget that fact. For a group of people who act misunderstood and feel like outcasts, they really know how to ostracize someone for their sexuality. Hell, while we’re doing this review I have “All in the Family” on in the background, and Archie Bunker is more tolerant than these dweebs.

Now, you may think, “Brown, that’s not a lot to go on about the secondary characters.” And yeah, you’re right. Because this movie makes almost no effort into character building. Penny gets one scene where she argues with her abusive father, and then it is forgotten like a fart in the wind. Which is a good way to describe this movie.

Froemming: I know I keep going back to the first movie here, but if you are going to slap “SLC Punk” on something, that is going to happen. We got character development in that movie. We got interesting characters that we got to follow and it had a solid beginning, middle and end.

We don’t get any of that with this film. This film was worse than 90 percent of the student films I saw in college.

But here we are, a rambling mess of a film that made me angry as I watched it. The only saving grace was that it is a pretty short film, which makes sense because there is very little plot here.

Brown: With an irrelevant plot, I want to hit a couple bullet points.

  • Where the hell are they going in this movie? We hear Ogden, Utah mentioned a few times. Then at the punk concert, one of the bands talks about Salt Lake City. OK, so maybe they spent all day driving from Ogden to SLC, or the other way around. *Searches Google Maps* … it takes 41 minutes to get between the two towns?! I don’t care if you took the scenic route through the mountains and had the car break down for a short time, that is not an all-day trip.
  • When Penny’s Cadillac stalls, Ross gets it to start up again. How? By hitting his cane against a part of the engine. So Ross is Fonzie?
  • Eventually, they run into an old Rasta-looking man with a lot of psychedelic mushrooms. And the guy talks about how he’s full of wisdom. It’s like Steven King wrote that scene.

Froemming: And like a mysterious character from a King story, the Rasta Man disappears randomly after they all (minus Penny) trip balls.

But hey, this wouldn’t be a JOE-DOWN review without getting into some BOWLING! Yes, this is the third film we have reviewed this summer that has a terrible bowling scene. This one we get Ross, Crash and Penny bowling to the punk rock angst of….Cab Calloway?

I HATE THIS MOVIE!

Brown: Next movie we watch that has a bowling scene, I’m shutting it off. This one was fine, but I’m done with it.

Now, you mentioned this movie is short (it says it’s 75 minutes long, but I think it’s closer to 65. It doesn’t respect itself enough to be 90 minutes), but I think that’s too long. You wanna know why? Because in real life, one of these kids would have had a cell phone, Trish would have called and found out where Ross was. Movie over. If Heroin Bob died in 1985 and Ross is 19, then we’re looking at 2004. I was in my senior year of high school then. A lot of people had cell phones. Sure, they could be SO punk they don’t have ‘em, but I say BS to that. They’re still teenagers who clearly shop at Hot Topic. They had cell phones.

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Froemming: Now we have gotten a lot of the A-plot down, let’s head over to the B-plot, which is Trish and the old gang of background characters (mostly) from the first — and after this review, I will consider the only — “SLC Punk” film.

  • Sean. After his LSD freakout (and the use of clips from the first film to kill the clock in this film) and becoming homeless the last we saw, Sean now works for a state senator. And he still sports those bright orange gloves for some reason. He knows Ross from around town.
  • John the Mod. After wowing us with standing in the background of the first film, we find out John is now really into Norwegian death metal and also owns an oddity shop in SLC. What is this, Portland before Portland became the hipster mecca?
  • Eddie. Made his fortune off soft-core pornography. I kind of remember him, but not very well.

These old-timers gather at Trish’s store to figure out where Ross is. And there is a moment when the emo girl says what we are all thinking: “Why are we just standing around not doing anything? Let’s go out and find him.” I was so glad she got the movie rolling again.

Oh, there is no chemistry among any of these characters either. It is like they don’t want to be in this film as much as we didn’t want to be watching this film.

So they hop into Eddie’s limo (because he is the “Hugh Hefner of Salt Lake City” kind of rich) and head to the concert Sean thinks the kids are heading to.

Brown: Ahh, the concert. The pot at the end of this rainbow of (REDACTED). Now, the last 20 minutes of this movie is the concert, which is great because there’s little dialogue and little interaction of note, save for Ross and Penny having a forced kiss that had as much passion as Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley.

Now, consider that this movie has a 20-minute concert and a bunch of “Monty Python”-meets-”Juno” cutaways to give exposition and there’s maybe 40 minutes of actual movie here? “SLC Punk 2” is 65ish minutes long and still struggles with material to make the story longer. If you are needing those kind of tricks to artificially pad your movie, maybe you shouldn’t have made it in the first place!

Froemming: You need to add in the clips from the first film, too. That probably killed a solid 5-10 minutes as well.

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Brown: And the one thing I would say is a shame in all this is right as the concert starts, Heroin Bob gives a really good monologue about how all these groups of disenfranchised people from all walks of life come to punk for escapism. Finding peace of mind in power chords, essentially. It’s a touching speech that gets lost because this movie is so preachy for the other 64 minutes that the one minute of wise perspective is hardly noticeable.

Froemming: Bob’s speech was really good. It was like a brief glimmer of what I enjoyed of the first only film of this franchise with these characters.

But Bob’s speech is then followed by Ross, still drunk and tripping, taking the stage and giving the audience a speech. A speech where he expresses he wants to (REDACTED) everyone in the club. Thus making Ross one of the worst-written characters ever to grace any film. No evolution, no development, he remains the insufferable jerk we met at the very start. At least Stevo had a revelation about life at the end of the first film. Here, nothing.

Brown: Well, at least Sean and John save Ross from the ass-kicking he kind of deserves. If we were going to bring back characters from “SLC Punk,” why not bring back Jason Segel’s character, Mike? He was a badass who didn’t match the punks’ fashion sense but was one of the most hardcore people in the movie. One of my favorite parts of the first movie was when he destroys the cars on his block because he’s drunk and decides they would all look better without windows. He could have returned to Salt Lake City after going to Notre Dame to study botany.

But no, we get acid guy and mod-turned-lame viking. And Trish who was, let’s be honest, not that interesting in the original “SLC Punk.”

Froemming: Don’t forget, Ross professes his love for Penny at the concert, and she turns him down. Not because he is an arrogant ass that looks like Marilyn Manson while sporting in the puffy shirt from “Seinfeld,” but because he is a keeper.

Penny, you need counseling. Call a therapist and get your life on track.

Brown: Froemming, let’s get our lives back on track by ending this.

So after getting saved, Ross is finally back with his mom, only to give this drunken speech about how he doesn’t want to go with her (or something). She won’t let him go because Ross is her last attachment to Bob. Look, I won’t tell a person how to cope with grief, but it has been 19 years. Let your arrogant son go with his merry crew to the mall to get My Chemical Romance CDs or whatever those kids do in Utah.

Froemming: Like Matthew Lillard, let us not be associated with this film anymore than we have to and head over to recommendations.

Would you recommend?

Froemming: No. That is all.

Brown: Hahahaha. No. This movie is in “Rocky V” territory. It did not happen.

Here is what’s coming up for the next Joe-Down: