A shy teenager finds it hard to communicate with his fellow high school pupils by day, transforms himself into the outrageous pirate radio DJ Hard Harry. As those various students tune in, he becomes a local hero, but tragedy will interrupt his triumph.
A stirring slice of pop-profound juvenilia given a cool heart by Christian Slater spouting screeds of fun-rebellious anti-establishment bile that gets a bunch of Gen X mopers all hot round their skateboard pads as played by a bunch of nowhere soon teen actors. It should be dire, but is generally great fun because Allan Moyle avoids the temptation to apply heaps of Heathers-bleak irony rather than give it a shrill but effective earnestness. You kind of feel, Happy Harry, Slater’s midnight on-air identity, might have a point, at least until the credits roll.
Actually, there are various levels on which the film clicks into place. The monologues have a hip-stupid ferocity to them, and Slater launches into them like a boy possessed. Time may have told on Harry’s dirty asides — “Just look inside yourself and you'll see me waving up at you naked wearing only a cock ring” — which sound more camp than shocking by today’s potty-mouthed standards, but his jabs of nihilism carry the same mock-philosophical cant that even beefed up Fight Club. The film also gels as a Cinderella story as shy-by-day, outrageous-by-night Harry finds a genuine lurve thang with hip cutie Samantha Mathis. And the strike of tragedy, a teen suicide misreading his angry blather, sends a caustic note of caution to shake up the film’s finale. As the authorities close in to arrest the punk provocateur, Moyle allows the film to end on a surge a teen righteousness.
It’s doubtful we should take any of its petty umbrage too seriously, but when it is delivered with such grave authority as this it’s hard to resist the urge to take up arms to bring the establishment crashing down round its ears, by playing records really loudly and swearing at your parents.
Pump Up The Volume
Released: 21 March 2005
Surprising success with what could be a formulaic disgruntled teen movie. Fast paced with a satisfyingly unhappy ending.
Reviewed by Lloyd Bradley