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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 2/13/03

Hard Core Logo
1996/1998 (2001) - Miramax/Rolling Thunder Pictures

review by Robert Smentek of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Hard Core Logo Film Rating: A

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/A/D-

Specs and Features

96 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (1:85.1), 16x9 enhanced, Amaray keep case packaging, single-sided, single-layered, theatrical trailer, Miramax/Rolling Thunder sneak peeks, film-themed menu screens, scene access (23 chapters), English (DD 5.1), subtitles: English, Closed Captioned

"Billy's models and limousines. Me, I'm hookers and taxi cabs."

Bruce McDonald's 1996 film Hard Core Logo is the best film ever made about rock and roll. Sure, there have been other movies with better performances (Concert for Bangladesh), better documentaries (Gimme Shelter)... even better films starring rock musicians (A Hard Day's Night). But Hard Core Logo is the first and only film to accurately capture the beer-soaked, cigarette-stained world of rock and roll.

What you have to realize is that TRUE rock and roll isn't seen on MTV, American Idol or the Super Bowl Halftime Show. It's not heard in stadiums or even on Top 40 radio. Real, authentic rock and roll is played in small clubs by bands that tour in buses and vans, and play three-chord songs on electric guitars. Rock and Roll is a world where t-shirt sales can mean the difference between a hotel room and sleeping in a van at a highway rest stop. By definition, rock and roll is loud, raw, energetic and a little bit smarmy. It has nothing to do with silk scarf-covered mike stands and private Lear jets.

Filmed in faux-documentary style, McDonald's film chronicles the latest reunion tour of Canadian punk rock veterans Hard Core Logo. The band, now in their mid-to-late 30's, are hitting the road for one last hurrah after a successful benefit concert. Undoubtedly inspired by ever touring, old school punk rockers like DOA and Social Distortion, Hard Core Logo isn't just touring for that "blaze of glory"... they're playing because they HAVE to. Frankly, what else are guys with names like Joe Dick and Pipefitter going to do with their lives? Only guitarist Billy Tallent has any shot at super-stardom, playing with Seattle grunge-band Jennifur. This tour is a chance at a financial windfall for the group, and an opportunity to introduce a new audience to the punk band. But as the expression goes, "the best laid plans of mice and men..."

Although the tour is surrounded by some hype, things quickly deteriorate for the band. Hard Core Logo is soon playing to half-empty clubs and loses all their money to a couple of crafty call girls. Billy Tallent's dreams at stardom are seemingly shot down, and bass player John Oxenberger loses his anti-psychotic medication. While these circumstances seem wildly unlikely, McDonald depicts the band as a group of working guys who are more than a little desperate. McDonald only goes over the top once, in a scene involving an LSD binge. All is forgiven, though, since it makes the scene's punch line even more effective. Hard Core Logo has moments of hilarity, but they are countered with scenes that are genuinely sad, even pathetic. The "mockumentary" style of Hard Core Logo will undoubtedly cause many to compare the film (unfairly) to This is Spinal Tap. While Spinal Tap is a dead-on parody of rock and roll excess, Hard Core Logo is a depiction of a band that will never get the big arena shows.

The film's success ultimately lies with Hard Core Logo's two lead characters: frontman Joe Dick and guitarist Billy Tallent. Friends since childhood, these guys are the punk rock Lennon & McCartney... with just as antagonistic a relationship. Real-life punk singer Hugh Dillon is phenomenal as Joe Dick. While he's likely playing a variation of himself, Dillon shines as Hard Core Logo's resident loudmouth who is a walking embodiment of the punk life-style. His acclaimed performance even won him an audition for Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown (the role eventually went to Michael Keaton). Dillon also performed all his own vocals on the movie's excellent soundtrack. Callum Keith Rennie, who plays Billy Tallent, is similarly excellent as the band's hotshot. Rennie, who's not a musician (and as an actor is pretty much exclusively known as Memento's bloody guy in the closet), does a great job in the role. If you ignore a few missed lip-syncs, and some slightly awkward guitar miming, Rennie is very believable as the pretty-boy guitar hero. His attitude and swagger scream ROCK STAR, while at the same time he feels a self-destructive sense of loyalty to his garage rock partner. Anyone who's spent any extended time in rock clubs will know folks like Joe Dick and Billy Tallent.

Hard Core Logo was one of 1996's most acclaimed films... in Canada. Nominated for several Genie awards (including best director, best editor, and best film), it won for best original song; marking the first time a punk song ever won a major film award. The film was largely unknown in the US until Quentin Tarantino's Rolling Thunder pictures distributed the film in 1998 (with help from Miramax). After a few brief art house runs, the movie is now available on DVD.

Unfortunately, the bare-bones disc is something of a disappointment. While the video and audio are superb (never sounding or looking like the low-budget movie it is), Hard Core Logo has virtually no extras, other than the standard theatrical trailer. This is especially inadequate since screenwriter Noel S. Baker 's chronicle of the film's production (Hard Core Roadshow) discusses an on-set documentary. You'd think that the always-loquacious Quentin Tarantino, a self-described movie nut, would've insisted on more features. One can only hope that a Canadian release will be more packed.

Gritty, funny and finally tragic, Hard Core Logo is a must see for anyone who ever had a mohawk or a Ramones t-shirt.

Robert Smentek
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