Teenage Badass


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Teenage Badass
"It all works well enough except for the fact that we've seen most of it before, beat for beat."

Teenage Badass is one of those films that seems tailor made for a very specific audience: thirtysomething men who fell in love with music during the Nineties and never did anything much more edgy than smoking a bit of cannabis and making deliberately unflattering fashion choices, but still like to think of themselves as badasses when they're dancing around in secret in the kitchen. If that sounds like you, you're likely to find this by-the-numbers story of the rise and fall of a small time rock band rather endearing. If not, it may provide you with a few laughs, but not much more.

Brad (Mcabe Gregg) is small time guy with a small time drug habit, living with his ailing mother and helping to define the slacker stereotype of the era. His one real passion is drumming, so when he's invited to join a local band, he leaps at the chance - apparently not realising that whilst singers and guitarists are ten a penny, drummers, by virtue of the fact that their kit costs a lot of money, are a rarer breed and can afford to be discriminating. Guitarist Albert (Dillon Lane) and keyboardist Mark both seem like nice enough guys but the front man, one Kirk Stylo (Evan Ultra), is whiny, temperamental and utterly self-centred, the kind of guy who takes cocaine so he can blame it for his already deformed personality. He's not even pretty but he knows what he wants, and that's to be the centre of the universe. Hence the band name, Stylo and the Murderdogs, which he actually thinks is cool.

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Whenever your musical awakening took place, if you spent much time going to gigs or contributing to your local scene, you will have known someone like this. You may have found him quite amusing at the time, or been under the misapprehension that you were looking at genius. Whatever the case, you probably don't want to be stuck in a room with him again now, and this is where Grant McCord's film falls down. What might well provoke nostalgia is also likely to awaken old frustrations, and what can be hilarious for five minutes grows increasingly irksome over 90.

Despite some impressively awful acting early on, most of Teenage Badass isn't too bad from a technical standpoint. Its script may be built out of clich├ęs but it shows some awareness of this, making an effort to send them up towards the end. Female characters are treated badly but don't put up with it, which presents a challenge to the cosy boys in the band adventure vibe found elsewhere. Kevin Corrigan hams it up as a sleazy record executive and it all works well enough except for the fact that we've seen most of it before, beat for beat. We know exactly where it's going from the start and it never slips out of rhythm. The result is something akin to an amiable three minute pop song whose tune you'll have forgotten three minutes later.

Reviewed on: 17 Sep 2020
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The rise of a fictional indie rock band named Stylo and the Murder Dogs.

Director: Grant McCord

Writer: Matthew D Dho, Grant McCord

Starring: Mcabe Gregg, Evan Ultra, Madelyn Deutch, Dillon Lane, Elsie Hewitt, Karsen Liotta, Julie Ann Emery, Kevin Corrigan, James Paxton, Jim Adkins

Year: 2020

Runtime: 99 minutes

Country: US


SXSW 2020

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