REVIEW: Empire Records

When it comes to cult movies that I do not enjoy, there is usually something about them that allows me to understand why others like it.  In the case of The Boondock Saints, a film that I didn't recommend, I can see that there is a style and presence within that would easily attract some viewers.  The film had a craziness about it that, while not working for me, could unleash torrents of  dopamine for certain people.  I mean, it has a hitman version of Captain Highliner.  That's a visual that one does not forget.

With Empire Records, I cannot see how it has found its way to cult status.  I know a number of people who really love this film, and I don't consider them insane and of unsteady thought.  They are good people, folks that I trust, but they have an appreciation on a level that is alien to me.  What do they see in this film?  I honestly cannot say.

The movie focuses on a single day at a store called Empire Records, staffed by 'crazy cool' teens that don't do very much in the way of work.  They dance to music and do all sorts of crazy cool things.  The store is in financial trouble, and they don't want to see it sold to a national chain.  They love the manager, Joe (Anthony LaPaglia).  Joe is a father figure to them, and an outstandingly poor manager.

If the store is in such a bad situation, why does he hire an army of teens that don't work and do the job of two to three people?  Why doesn't he call the police when finding out that one of his staff members stole nine thousand dollars?  Well, that's because Joe is so cool, so cool that this poor sucker gets walked over by a bunch of absolutely stupid teenagers.

I think that director Allan Moyle believes he knows how teens act, and what characteristics are likeable.  He is wrong.  Seriously wrong.  Each of the characters, especially the males, are so absurdly one note that I cannot take them seriously.  They are all assigned a single trait, and that's who they are, taken to extremes that makes me think this is a parody on how disconnected adults are when it comes to portraying modern teens.

The male characters are the biggest problem with this film.  The ultra cool Lucas (Rory Cochrane) is a sociopath.  After stealing money from the store and losing it at a casino, he never shows any remorse in his deviant behaviour and how it destroys Joe.  But hey, he's cool, and cool kids don't need to show any empathy for others.  Lucas is unbeatably the worst of the lot.  

Mark (Ethan Embry) is also apparently cool, but he's more of a stoner joker.  Embry's over the top performance is grating and makes me long for reliving my one an only catheter experience over being exposed to him.  And then there's A.J. (Johnny Whitworth), who's possibly the least hated one, although he is still painful.

The female characters, while all very one dimensional, are not as grating.  We have okay performances from Robin Tunney, Renee Zellweger, and Liv Tyler.  Zellwegger is credited as being 'girl in blue truck' in Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused, a teen movie that actually presents and explores the reality and weights that young people experience.  If you have a craving for some vintage Zellwegger, definitely check out her work as girl in blue truck rather than her static character in Empire Records.

I always thought that the Friday the 13th series was the worst example of adults trying to understand and portray teens.  Horror films in the past have been notorious for their lack of proper understanding, and I feel like Return of the Living Dead lampoons this issue.  Empire Records shows that this problem is not limited to the prime years of the slasher genre.

When it came out in 1995, Empire Records was a massive failure.  With a budget of $10 million, it only managed to snag three hundred thousand from audiences.  Financial success isn't a perfect indicator of a quality film, as some amazing movies have not had good theatrical runs.  However, in this instance I feel like the numbers are in line with the quality of the film.  Some may love this movie, but multitudes more will hate it.

Rating - 1 out of 4 stars