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07.12.2001

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flick pick | Hard Core Logo 1996
Directed by: Bruce McDonald
Written by: Noel S. Baker, Michael Turner [book]
Starring: Hugh Dillon, Callum Keith Rennie, Bernie Coulson, John Pyper-Ferguson, Julian Richings

Language: English
Look for it at the video store under:
drama, foreign [Canada]
Watch it when you’re in the mood for something:
 
darkly comic, true?!?
The verdict: / 5 the rating system explained

Plot synopsis Charismatic, volatile punk rocker Joe Dick manages to reunite his former band, Hard Core Logo, for a special benefit concert in honor of punk-pioneer Bucky Haight. Fueled by the show's success, the members of Hard Core Logo decide to give it another go, and together, set off on a tour of Western Canada. Documentary filmmaker Bruce McDonald and his crew follow the band from dingy club to dingy club, capturing the ups and downs of life on the road. Like any dysfunctional family, Hard Core Logo’s four members love each other too much to let the band die its natural death, but fight far too bitterly to make the situation particularly healthy for any one of them. Bassist John Oxenberger loses the pills that control his schizophrenia and rapidly begins to lose his mind, while manic drummer Pipefitter – whose brain cells have clearly gone to pot long ago – oh-so-sensitively gives poor John crap for his deteriorating mental health. And through it all there's the tension between frontman Joe, a punk purist who loathes nothing more than selling out, and his childhood best buddy, guitarist Billy Tallent, who’s on the verge of experiencing major pop-rock stardom with a potential new gig playing in hot band called Jennifur.

Review There’s just no getting around it: you can’t help but compare Hard Core Logo with Rob Reiner’s cult classic, This is Spinal Tap. Both follow the trials and tribulations of a band as it struggles to remain intact despite cancelled shows and deep personal conflicts. And both tell their stories in a pseudo-documentary format, with each film’s real director appearing within the context of the fiction, as the fake director of the film-within-the-film. But if you were to pick up Hard Core Logo at the video store expecting to get a hilarious, punk-rock version of Spinal Tap … well, you’d be in for a surprise. Bruce McDonald’s dark, cynical film is actually more like the flip side of Spinal Tap, which when you think about it, makes perfect sense. The punk rock underground of Hard Core Logo is the antithesis of Spinal Tap’s heavy-metal pop world, railing against all of the greed and materialism, excess and superficiality that the latter embraces with glee. There’s plenty of humor to be found, but it’s sly and subtle, consisting primarily of self-referential in-jokes, like when Joe and Billy play a car game that involves naming fictional Canadian bands (very metafictional indeed). It’s the sort of funny that’s more likely to elicit soft chuckles than slap-your-knee guffaws. In a way, the laughs seem incidental, brief diversions from the movie’s main themes: the friction between punk and pop, that fuzzy gray line separating success and selling out, and the sad fact that clinging to the past can sometimes be a serious impediment to moving on with one’s future. All of which are represented in the complex relationship between Joe Dick and Billie Tallent, fantastically played by Hugh Dillon and Callum Keith Rennie, respectively. Hard Core Logo’s no Spinal Tap, and that’s not a bad thing: it’s intelligent, intriguing, emotionally affecting … yet another example of fine Canadian moviemaking. —reviewed by Y. Sun   

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