At the end of SLC Punk!, the audience is left wondering whether the Anarchist Punk scene is a complete dead end or if Stevo, played by Matthew Lillard, is just another rich kid who finally got bored rebelling against his parents and ditched the scene because he was never made for that life anyway. By re-visiting the misfits of Salt Lake City, Utah 18 years later in Punk’s Dead: SLC Punk 2, Director James Merendino gets the opportunity to assure everyone that both perspectives were true.
Stevo isn’t in Punk’s Dead at all. Nobody even mentions him. Instead, Merendino focuses on the mainstays he left behind, anchored by the narration of his dead friend Heroin Bob (Michael Goorjian). The characters who seemed doomed to get swallowed up by all the drugs, all the sex, and all the fighting, became business owners and actual contributing members to society.
Remember that green mohawked guy who had all those tabs of acid absorbed into his bloodstream while running from the cops? He works for a senator now! And Trish (Sarah Clark) is a mom now thanks to Heroin Bob’s strong swimmers from beyond the grave. She even traded her bong emporium in for a store filled with steampunk knick knacks. That’s maturity, kinda!
So they’ve all leveled out. Except for Heroin Bob, whose ghost form kept him in a perpetual state of snarky post-gradism and serves as the middle ground between Trish’s group of aged punks and her son, Ross’ (Ben Schnetzer) crew of nascent scene inhibitors.
Unlike the recent slew of sequels that have come out of the woodwork over a decade following the original film’s release, Punk’s Dead does have a legitimate story to tell. The problem is, not enough time is dedicated to it. Because the pace of Punk’s Dead was dictated entirely through what Stevo deemed important, secondary and tertiary characters were only introduced by way of what they meant to Stevo. Giving those characters more screen time to legitimize themselves as actual people instead of novelty acts could have made for an almost Rosencrantz and Guildenstern type of story. But their storyline exists only to serve Ross’ rebellious journey with his friends, each of whom are completely underdeveloped.
Nothing Ross does makes him likable. He pontificates just like Heroin Bob and Stevo did in SLC, but there’s no charm to his brand of cynical ranting. His dad’s rants always had this air of ditzy paranoia, while Stevo’s babblings against conformity were said with a big smile on his face. There just isn’t any personality to what Ross is doing, which makes his not even half-baked love story with Penny (Hannah Marks) even more confusing.
There was a way to make a compelling sequel to this cult classic, but Punk’s Dead only skimmed over those possibilities. Heroin Bob’s ghost narration is a fun idea, but replacing SLC’s beautifully executed non-linear style with an overblown powerpoint presentation sucks the life out of the movie and rushes the backstory of each character’s introduction. And considering the movie’s less than 70 minutes long, why the hell was there any need to speed through the aspect that made the original so beloved in the first place?
This is a sequel that could have worked, but only if the ensemble cast was firing on all cylinders. Unfortunately, the flame was inconsistent. If each idea was actualized more fully, Punk’s Dead could have been a fitting counterpoint to SLC, but instead, what’s presented to us is a sloppy offering that will unlikely receive the same amount of love as its predecessor.
Punk’s Dead: SLC Punk 2 will be screening at the Boston Common AMC Theaters 19 on Thursday, March 3rd at 7:30PM. You can get more info about movie tickets on the Punk’s Dead Facebook Event Page and let us know what you think of the film in the comment area below.
Article by Gregory Cala. Twitter: @GregoryTCala.
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