In "SLC Punk!" writer-director James Merendino paints such averitable, aggressively freeform and nihilistic portrait of the tiny SaltLake City punk scene, circa 1985, that you just know he was there.
He gets the rabid social politics and understands the necessarycultural bent toward belligerence. He can write a double-caffeinated voice-overbrimming with drug-induced psychological and sociological observationsfrom a punker point of view, yet make them lucid enough for sober consumption.
In "SLC Punk!" he not only delivers his audienceinto the metaphorical mosh pit of determined anarchy that was the punkphilosophy, he also has a sense of humor about it.
Merendino scores big with this tilted but insightful comedyabout hardcore agitators in the land of the Latter Day Saints that takeson a structure as delightfully discombobulated as its subject -- a college-educatedanarchist named Stevo who is starting to become disenchanted with his blue-hair-and-bong-hitslifestyle.
Perfectly cast as Stevo is Matthew Lillard -- Gen X andY's most hyperactive character actor from "Scream," "She'sAll That," "WingCommander" and "Hackers" -- whose in-your-face, perpetual motion acting style is exactly what therole calls for.
Often breaking the fourth wall, Stevo is our tour guideto the underground world he inhabits with a few other outcasts like ironicallyneedle-phobic Heroin Bob (Michael Goorjian), demonic den mother Trish (AnnabethGish) and his raccoon-eyed, rat-haired girlfriend Sandy (Jennifer Lien).
Without ever becoming a bore, he blankets film with a stream-of-consciousnesscommentary of droll asides and tenants of punk wisdom, many regarding thepecking order of Salt Lake youth sects (The movie's opening line: "If---in' hate rednecks.").
Merendino's kinetic editing and establishment of an authenticpunker atmosphere give "SLC Punk!" a tweaked true-to-life tingeand Lillard's precision over-the-top performance betrays subtly the inevitablechinks in Stevo's anarchist armor. A couple of the best scenes in the filmare moments in which Stevo's ridicule of his suburban poster boy pop --a former hippie who wants him to go to Harvard Law -- begins to give wayto begrudging respect.
With its cult of personality lead, its oddly nostalgicair and its nail-on-the-head ambiance of rebellion, "SLC Punk!"has great potential as the kind of sleeper hit that segues into midnightmovie legend.