AMERICAN HARDCORE — ** 1/2 — Documentary feature about hard-core punk-rock music; rated R (profanity, vulgarity, violence, drugs, sex, brief nudity, racial epithets).

"American Hardcore" is more interesting musically than cinematically.

While this documentary features rare performance footage of hard-core punk-rock bands Black Flag and Bad Brains, it's not exactly the best-assembled or deepest cinematic exploration of the subject.

Consequently, the film probably won't appeal to newcomers to the music — especially because of the rawness of the language here. But it will probably hold some interest for devotees of this particular music genre.

"American Hardcore" is based on Steven Blush's book of the same name, which looks at nearly a decade's worth of musical history. Specifically, the beginnings of hard-core, an even more aggressive and speedy spin-off of the '70s-era punk rock.

Though its arguable point of origin was California, huge hard-core scenes also grew in Boston, New York City and Washington, D.C.

The musical geography game is one of the film's highlights. (There's even a brief shout-out to the Salt Lake music scene, including the short-lived Massacre Guys.)

And articulate spokesmen like Henry Rollins and Ian MacKaye (from the seminal acts Black Flag and Minor Threat, respectively) lend some credibility to the proceedings.

But there are also too many sound-alike interview snippets and some laughable, all-too-obvious speculations. For example, the filmmakers contend that the genre began because of youthful frustrations over conservative politics of the time. Well, duh!

Music video director Paul Rachman's film construction is also a bit haphazard and scattered.

"American Hardcore" is rated R for strong sexual language (including prevalent profanity and crude slang terms), concert violence, drug content (references to drug use and abuse), sexually suggestive imagery, brief glimpses of nude photos and artwork, and use of racial epithets. Running time: 100 minutes.


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