The Doom Generation

The Doom Generation

***1/2

Reviewed by: James Benefield

A quintessentially Nineties slice of nihilism from indie auteur Greg Araki, The Doom Generation plays like a cross between the angry day-glo excesses of Natural Born Killers and the drugged-up philosophy of Richard Linklater's Slacker.

In the small hours, foul-mouthed teen Amy Blue (Rose McGowan, in her first major screen role) and her slow-witted boyfriend Jordan White (James Duval) meet a stranger getting beaten up in a car park. He gets in their car for safety. He turns out to be the violent, sex-crazed Xavier Red (Johnathon Schaech), who soon gets them involved in a double homicide at a convenience store. Things don't get any less violent or hellish as they embark on a road trip to nowhere in particular, on the run from the police. Although there were no witnesses, Jordan lost an earring on the scene and there is some CCTV footage. In other words, there's a time limit on their journey.

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If you've ever seen anything by Araki, apart from perhaps Mysterious Skin, you'll know how wilfully trashy, colourful and idiosyncratic the whole thing will be – and The Doom Generation doesn't disappoint on that front. Locations include bars bedecked in tin foil and there are checkerboard pattern hotel rooms, the dialogue is flippant and self-conscious and there are plenty of lingering shots on exposed flesh and actors wandering around in their underwear for no apparent reason. There's plenty of sexual tension (and sex), in all combinations between all the central three cast members. There's even a blink and you'll miss it cameo from Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss.

But there's a melancholy generation X vibe shot through here. It's not exactly thought-provoking, but there is a teasing intelligence on display, especially in the second half, which makes itself apparent in a number of asides, visual gags and the odd exchange about hope and direction between characters. The occasional flashes of cartoonish ultra-violence add to the anything goes atmosphere. These characters feel they might as well kill, screw anything and take drugs endlessly; there's nothing else out there to look forward to – where every shop-owner wields a gun and where footage of real-life disembowelling on the prime-time news is perfectly acceptable, the world in which they live seems devoid of any moral or ethical value anyway.

Both a moral comment on the Nineties and a trashy celebration of the own nihilism it berates, The Doom Generation is hardly consistent in its outlook. But these opposing strands do allow it to be simultaneously silly and enraged. And, in the end, it's kind of heartbreaking.

Reviewed on: 26 Mar 2012
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A trio go on a crime spree.
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Kaboom
Natural Born Killers