The story of American punk rock (1980-1986) isn't a lot easier to summarize than that of any other major war, but it's quite a bit funnier, as this belated documentary overview -- based on Steven Blush's like-titled tome -- proves in each of its 90 exuberantly irritable minutes. "Normal people did not listen to hardcore, and we liked it that way!" exclaims Articles of Faith's Vic Bondi, one of the movie's many hilarious punk raconteurs. Like the three-chords-fast tunes themselves, director Paul Rachman's montage is a frenzied, propulsive pull from here and there -- including not just an astonishing array of milky VHS concert footage (Black Flag in 1981!), but both Ronald Reagan inaugurations, the second of which seems to foretell the end of a movement that Blush and Rachman define as radical. Alas, this is yet another rock doc that keeps critics off-screen at the expense of greater context. But not even Blush could hope to research away the vast sociopolitical mystery by which hardcore, succumbing to some mix of audience agitation, police crackdowns, and the anti-careerist musicians' own exhausted self-sabotage (Bad Brains playing reggae?), takes its final stage dive.
Director: Paul Rachman
Writer: Steven Blush
Producer: Steven Blush and Paul Rachman
Cast: Ian McKaye, Gregg Ginn, Henry Rollins, Greg Hetson and Mathew Barney