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STUDIO:  Bloody Earth Films
MSRP: $14.98
RATED:  UNRATED (CONTAINS SCENES WITAH SLACKERS, PUNKS & LOSERS)
RUNNING TIME: 120 Minutes
SPECIAL FEATURES:
- Commentary with director Mike Pacitto
- Outtakes reel
- Audition reel
- Bloody Earth Films previews

The Pitch

The back cover of the DVD suggests this is an “outrageous blend of Slacker, The Doom Generation and the brutal cinema of Alan Clarke”, but this is more like La Haine meets Offspring’s Pretty Fly for a White Guy.

The Humans

Mike Passion “of the Christ”, Suzanne LaBatt “Blue”, Lonnie Jackson “Also has a nickname at the end”, Bobby Drew “the shortest straw”, Oliver Giancola “noscopy”

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Helpful for blending in when you’re surrounded by zebras or prisoners in the 1930’s.

The Nutshell

Bobby Tilton (Passion) is an unlovable loser, the type of person who imagines himself as some sort unstoppable badass who will cower in the face of no man, when in actuality he’s a small-time douche bag multiple times over, spending most of his days hitting on women to no avail and smoking his friend’s pot. In fact, his opening scene, the only one where he flexes his ‘tough guy’ muscle is apt; he runs an old-time pie in the face gag on an unsuspecting convenience store patron and celebrates as though he just slayed Goliath (note to director Mike Pacitto in case some divine intervention brings you to read this review: his celebratory wailing should’ve lasted as long as you intended to in the original cut, it’s fucking hilarious).  However, when his best friend is slayed Bobby suspects the victim of the pie gag of committing the crime and plots to murder him in revenge. What follows is a passion of the douche as we follow Tilton around on a continual downward spiral as he tries to take wrongful revenge and sinks to further lows in order to do so.

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"It’s a high school musical production, they want their set dressing for an interrogation room back."

The Lowdown

It took me an extremely long time to figure out if director/writer Mike Pacitto was in on the joke at the core of American Punks, but you finally realize what he’s trying to do with the character. You wish for the character to constantly receive his comeuppance for his delusions of badassery, and he does: He’s constantly losing, being belittled, or getting the shit kicked out of him. There’s an appeal to watching this passion of the douche, and I think a lot of it has to do with Mike Passion’s performance in the lead. He’s the only believable actor of the bunch (the liner notes in the disc reveal this can be attributed to his getting drunk before just about every scene he’s in), although that isn’t saying too much considering the bar is laying on the floor, but it merits mentioning. Of all of the people in this film, he has the most screen presence and his fevered performance (featuring at least three scenes that were equally as funny as anything I saw in any comedies in recent memory) captures perfectly the blustery confidence of this character who is proven time and again to amount to nothing in the world of the movie.


The many moods of Mike Passion.

However, there isn’t anything visually appealing about this, and the amateurish quality of the performances, settings (the hardcore squalor of a drug dealer’s neighborhood is made clear by the fact that he has a shopping cart on his front lawn – those dirty motherfuckers!) and camerawork and editing make it embarrassing to watch at some points. There’s a gambling sequence done in slow motion that plays more as a laugh riot than as a moment of redemption for the character. Also, the final scene of the movie completely confuses me as to the intent of what we just viewed. Is it suggesting we’re meant to feel sympathy for this largely unsympathetic character? It strikes an extremely sour note that sort of fudges what one would imagine is the movie’s intent up until that point. 

However, there’s enough in the way of unintentional comedy: the absolutely ridiculous cop character (who learned his interrogation methods from half-remembered B-movie performances) who shoots a character in the spine, then lifts him up and cuffs him being a particular highlight, and a plot that moves pretty aggressively (it’s not a hard movie to get into in terms of its narrative – it isn’t a complex work of brilliance, but in the hands of the right director it’d make for a nice potboiler of a B movie) to make the viewing experience as unexcruciating as possible. There isn’t anything gritty about the movie (no matter how hard the DVD packaging will try to convince you of this), and there’s a disappointing lack of violence throughout (mostly takes place off screen, including one of the weakest shotgun to the head aftermaths you’ll ever see) but the fact that the majority of the actors are amateurs helps give a lived-in quality to the sense of bullshit posturing that is supposed to accompany their performances. Its little quirks of fate such as that which help make American Punks more entertaining than it has any right to be. 

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The filmmakers were proud to boast a cameo appearance from Sgt. Kabukiman Jr.

I guess the best thing I can say for American Punks is that despite it all it’s eminently watchable. There’s a sense of the entire thing teetering on the edge of complete failure throughout that makes it irresistible during its running time. However, it isn’t good by any stretch of the imagination, so I can’t really recommend it in good conscience. If you want to watch a highly ridiculous movie with your friends you could do a hell of a lot worse.

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Say what you would about Mike, but he sure could vomit T-1000.

The Package

Bloody Earth seems to have a knack for making cover art infinitely more expressive than the finished product. Kind of in touch with the spirit of the thing though, where the promotion of the product always contained more promise than the ‘exploitation film’ could deliver. The picture and audio quality are suspect, but not so bad as to deter your enjoyment of the film. There are a nice handful of extras to supplement the feature, although I can’t imagine there’s an audience that was waiting for an in-depth look into the making of this picture.  There’s an audio commentary from director Mike Pacitto and his filmmaking partner that is suitably amused with the end product. He’s definitely aware of what he’s made, as laughter takes up long portion of the track. It’s slightly off-sync with the picture though, so be warned for reactions that don’t match up with what you’re seeing on screen. There’s also an audition reel that showcases the fact that almost everybody who auditioned ended up with a part in the film. Also included is an outtake reel and a host of Bloody Earth previews (which are pretty entertaining for shitty exploitation trailers). All in all a nice collection of extras for a movie where no one would bat an eye if the disc was released barebones.

6.0 out of 10