Movie Review: CBGB

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CBGB, directed by Randall Miller, tells the story of Hilly Kristal, a down-on-his-luck man who opens the legendary club despite a few setbacks that he previously endured. Kristal, played by the late Alan Rickman, opened the club in hopes of making it a place for country, bluegrass, and blues artists to play. But the club soon became a destination for punk rock bands and underground rockers to play and make a name for themselves.

The movie was mostly received negatively by critics but I thought it told a great story. Kristal, along with a group of outcasts and misfits, helped build what would become one of the best-known clubs in the world. I thought the story was great and the scenes of the Bowery area in Manhattan. Whether the story is completely accurate or not I do not know. But the movie was very entertaining and featured a great cast to tell that story.

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There are not enough words to describe the performances Alan Rickman. From Hans Gruber in Die Hard to Metatron in Dogma and even  Alexander Dane in Galaxy Quest, Rickman was always a joy to watch. And his Portugal of Hilly Kristal in CBGB was no different. Rickman was excellent as the man who helped create an iconic place in rock history. Rickman will be sadly missed, but will live on forever with performances like this one and many others.

Rickman was joined by a group that helped his character run the club. This group included Donal Logue (Gotham), Richard de Klerk (Supernatural), Johnny Galecki (The Big Bang Theory), Freddy Rodriguez (Planet Terror), and Ashley Greene (The Twilight Saga). Michael Massee, the actor infamously involved in the Brandon Lee shooting accident on the set of The Crow, plays Officer Stan, a cop who often looks the other way to help out Kristal. Also helping Hilly was Mad Mountain, the leader of a gang. He was played by Ryan Hurst. Hurst is best known for his role as Gerry Bertier in Remember the Titans but I would almost guarantee anyone that they would never recognize him in this movie.

And then there were the artists that made CBGB’s so well known. In this movie, there are  appearances by The Dead Boys (Justin Bartha plays Stiv Bators and Rupert Grint plays Cheetah Chrome), Iggy Pop (Taylor Hawkins), The Ramones (Joel David Moore plays Joey Ramone), Blondie (Malin Ackerman plays Debbie Harry), Lou Reed (Kyle Gallner), Patti Smith (Mickey Sumner), and The Police (with Keene McRae as Sting).

CBGB was a really good movie that I enjoyed a lot. The story, accurate or not, was interesting. I admire Hilly Kristal’s vision and willingness to help out band’s along the way. And it is apparent that the bands also appreciate what Kristal did for their careers by the respect his name has in the music industry. But as for the movie, I thought it was a very good film and worth checking out. Music fans would especially enjoy CBGB as it tells the story of one of American music’s true historical places.

Daryl Karpinski, Jr.

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