Complete and utter shit. I had already read the reviews and seen the trailer so I wasn’t surprised that this movie was going to suck. I just watched it to see how bad it stunk and I was not disappointed. It did not even come close to rising above the absolute wretchedness which I had expected. What’s sad is that CHEETAH CHROME WAS INVOLVED!!! It’s mind boggling to me that a former participant on the CBGB scene could be involved in such a piss poor travesty and allow himself to be portrayed as a complete buffoon. Chrome is a smart dude! He’s well spoken and reads a lot and certainly must have been aware of how the actor portrayed him as a completely moronic thug.
But let me start from the beginning. I wasn’t there. I didn’t witness the first ever Ramones performance where each member played a different song, angrily stormed offstage and came back to play “Blitzkrieg Bop”; one of those legendary performances where the people in attendance had no idea that they were witnessing history being made. But I’ve read Please Kill Me along with a ton of other literature on this topic and I’ve seen plenty of live footage from the era and, for chrissakes, I listen to all of these bands!!!
CBGB the movie is total VH1-style, biopic nonsense. A few key scenes were underlined and recreated as stylistically bankrupt as possible (unless you consider crude comic book panel transitions a “style”). But what do you expect from a film made by the same guy who directed Houseguest? A clever, post-modern docu-drama in the style of 24 Hour Party People?!!!!!
Like I said, I read Please Kill Me so I knew exactly what scenes they were recreating; the aforementioned inauspicious inaugural Ramones performance, Stiv Bators from the Dead Boys receiving oral sex onstage, Legs McNeil, John Holmstrom and Mary Harron interviewing Lou Reed for the first issue of Punk and Johnny Blitz’s stabbing among others.
And there you have it; the key stories behind the CBGB club excepting early performances from a bunch of other bands that were left out for practical reasons (I understand there might not have been room for Devo, the Cramps, the Misfits or the Damned but where the hell are Johnny Thunders and Heartbreakers or the Dictators in all of this?)… but the execution is a complete and utter joke. The only one that actually, kind of works is the Talking Heads one. They actually do look like the early Talking Heads but that only lasts for a couple minutes. The Ramones in the movie are completely laughable. Joey, who most considered typically cool, sounds like Woody Allen!!! He sounds like a neurotic, New York Jew and not like a too-cool-for-school rock ‘n’ roll guy. Apparently Linda Ramone, wife to deceased Ramones guitarist Johnny Ramone, approved one Ramones song to be in the movie but… instead, for some reason, they use a Joey Ramone solo recording.
The rest of the performances stink; actors that kinda sorta resemble Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, the Dead Boys (pre-Jeff Magnum who, for some reason, never appears in the movie(?!)), Television (with a pudgie Richard Hell(?!)) and the Police (who inexplicably “save” the club at the end (?!)) poorly mime to studio recordings of some of the greatest songs ever written. The movie is also full of blatant, easily avoidable mistakes; there were stickers all over the wall for bands who hadn’t even played there yet, Patti Smith performs “Because the Night” two years before it even came out and basically the Dead Boys’ entire story arc is a complete insult to the group, which I’ll save for the next paragraph.
I’m surprised Cheetah Chrome says anything positive about the movie since the Dead Boys are treated like Hilly Kristal’s big mistake. The movie only shows the Dead Boys’ public persona as a group of Midwest, white trash thugs where, in actuality, they were smart, charming and polite people! The actor who plays Stiv looks like Parry Farrel and does a bunch of stupid, overly-exaggerated “punk” poses and the Cheetah character keeps making nimrod, little kid, “nyeah, nyeah” faces while looking completely incapable of holding a guitar. If you watch any Dead Boys TV performances, it’s obvious they’re tight musicians who have quite a bit of charisma onstage. None of this is shown in the movie.
They do show the onstage blowjob and Cheetah Chrome shows Young, Loud and Snotty producer Genya Raven his pubes. This is important stuff, ya know. And they do show people shooting dope in the CBGB bathroom and guys giving each other head, which did happen, I guess. And they do show some dramatic scenes between Hilly (Allen Rickman) and his daughter Lisa (Ashley Greene) and how Hilly can’t handle money and was involved with some shady bikers and some other vaguely historical shit or something. But who cares? There is so much awesome early footage available of every single one of these performers on youtube that the only reason to watch this is to see how much of it they get wrong. Oh and the guy who played Iggy Pop is too tall.
But, if you want to see for yourself, here it is on youtube. Save yourself a trip to the theater or DVD rental and watch it here while you can: