Slowly peeling away the grungy denim layers of the rock ’n’ roll experience circa 1978, Detroit Rock City is as much a typical, drug experimenting gross-out as it is a revelation about the blind politics of fandom/stardom. Four high school basement rockers, Hawk (Edward Furlong), Jam Bruce (Sam Huntington), Trip (James DeBello) and Lex (Giuseppe Andrews), eschew the spun polyester and golden glitz of the disco era, which rode in tandem with ’70s hard rock. Instead, they opt for dirty jeans and burn-out worship of the pre-eminent subsatanic hack rockers of that decade, KISS.
Beyond its unspoken truths about rock ’n’ roll patriots and victims of disco fever, Detroit Rock City is a reasonably entertaining ride – in a brown Volvo, no less. It follows the four rabid KISS fans from the oppressive halls of their Ohio high school to the streets of Detroit (although, it was actually filmed in Toronto) where they hope to get into Cobo Arena for the biggest rock concert in history.
Only the demonic powers of a chain-smoking, blue-light-special church lady, Mrs. Bruce (Lin Shaye), and their own stupidity stand in their way. As Hawk, Jam, Trip and Lex scheme, plot and blunder their way to a night of head-splitting, blood-spitting rock in the Motor City, not even mushrooms and marijuana dull their surging sense of rock urgency. Risking bodily harm, all their worldly possessions and any traces of self-respect, they split up and wander aimlessly in the city to procure tickets.
If Detroit Rock City has a point, it aims toward the fact that action- figure-worthy mega-stars like KISS are nothing more than grease-painted mirror images of these four excitable fans. But as the naive kids find out, if you believe hard enough, you can get what you want, even if it’s only blown eardrums, a bloody nose, a chance to scream at the world and screw the girl of your dreams. Rock on.
Serena Donadoni writes about film for the Metro Times. E-mail her at [email protected].