It was one of these evenings where none of your friends got time but you got bumblebees in your ass. I checked the internet and found out that 3001 cinema is showing a movie called “wassup rockers” as part of their “1000 jahre punk” series. So I decided to check the internet for it and found very ambivalent critiques on the usual websites. Some raved about it and some called the probably worst movie ever. Hell, a movie that evokes such antithetic opinions is a definite must-see!
So I went there late at night not really knowing what to expect except having a broad outline of the plot that is indeed quite easy to remember: A bunch of teenage Hispanic boys in South Central L.A. wears tight pants, goes skateboarding, listens to punk rock and some of them play in a punk band themselves, a behaviour that doesn’t fit so well in their hip hop and gang style environment. The movie shows a rough 24 hours of their life in which they decide to take the bus to Beverly Hills and check out a skate spot at a school there. Of course they get into trouble and a lot of predictable and less predictable things happen. Otherwise there wouldn’t be no story to tell and we are not talking about Godard here…
But in fact the director and maker of this film has produced a similar amount of controversy in the past fifteen years as his just mentioned French counterpart some decades earlier. We are talking about Larry Clark, the guy who made “kids” and “ken park”, two movies that worked – despite all there differences – with a similar scheme and outline: showing a short span of time in the life of teenagers having sex and doing other crazy stuff that offends the Christian right and other upholders of so-called moral standards. The quite short time that is being covered by the plot is featured again in this movie just as the often episode-like style of telling the story with showing quite many sequences that seem pointless for the plot at first but work out in creating an emotional environment that helps understanding the life worlds of the protagonists. However Clark drastically reduced the usage of nudity and sex. Sex is indeed a strong topic but in opposition to his previous works the camera does now leave the scene before the actual coitus kicks off. In my eyes this was a wise decision because it is just not what the audience would expect him to show and after “ken park” this weapon has also turned blunt a little. Quite the same can be said about drugs (incl. alcohol) that do take place here but are nothing predominant. They just happen and that’s it
I can’t at all understand the criticism most of the haters brought in. Most of the things they wrote would rather fit for “kids” than for this movie. Okay, the story isn’t too complicated and worked out but why should it be? Even the plot of “romeo and juliet” could be told in one or two sentences and does it hurt? I don’t think so. I like the quiet, unexcited way that Clark tells his story and I like the way he takes time to fade it out in the end. Whoever wrote the ending was abrupt must have left the cinema before the end of the movie. In fact it is quite the opposite. In total denial of the Greek tragedy the movie doesn’t end with catastrophe or relief but simply passes it by and ends a couple of hours later in the lives of its heroes.
I also appreciate that the soundtrack is actually really accurate. Instead of compiling a dozen of contemporary major punk bands or a best of of the last few decades it consists of raw punk rock that could really be spinning on the stereos of the protagonists or even been played by their band itself. It is raw, simple and unpolished and I didn’t know any of the songs before which is in this case a very good sign. Oh, and forget about the comparisons to “the warriors”. They are plain bullshit and can only derive from a pathological will to file this movie in somewhere. Maybe it doesn’t fit in so well. It is too authentic in many ways like music, clothing, skateboarding skills, language, etc. to be ordinary Hollywood yard goods and it is no typical Larry Clark movie either. It is just a good movie or at least one that is worth watching if you are into punk or youth culture or anything like that. Many other directors would have made a much worse movie out of this plot and – believe it or not – it even got two or three moments that are just damn funny and made me roll in my chair laughing. Another thing I wouldn’t have expected from Mr. Clark.