“The Runaways” – 2010. Dir. Floria Sigismondi.

With Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning, Tatum O’Neal and Michael Shannon.

“How old are you?”

“Just turned 15.”

“Jail fucking bait! Jack fucking pot!”

“The Runaways” was essentially the first all girl rock band with front-woman Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning) and backed up by Joan Jett (Kristen Stewart). The band was formed by sleazy record producer Kim Fowley (the excellent Michael Shannon). The film opens up with Currie and her older sister walking down the street, and Currie gets her first period.

The scene was pretty blunt – very blunt as a matter of fact, and so is the rest of the film. It was funny; it was just I and my friend Peyton and some older man in the theater. When the opening scene unraveled with Currie stuffing toilet paper up her skirt, the man checked his ticket stub, and got up and left – obviously he was in the wrong theater.

The film starts out excellent, the pacing is quick and the scenes mash together perfectly. We’re introduced to the two main characters, Currie and Jett and we see how they’re different, how they’re unique and meant for something more then what they have.

Cherie Currie (Fanning) and Joan Jett (Stewart)

It isn’t until Jett is standing outside a club and see’s Kim Fowley and approaches him. He likes her style and her aura and introduces her to a female drummer – hence the creation of The Runaways. They practice in a trailer all day and all night, being constantly screamed at by Fowley where he proceeds to degrade and belittle them (at the risk of offending anyone, I won’t quote Shannon but it is wickedly good dialogue).

Fowley knows he’s onto something, but he’s missing one final piece to the puzzle, a front-woman. Fowley begins to scan the underground counterculture scene and he finds Currie, sitting alone drinking a Mountain Dew and seduces her into the rock band. Shannon is excellent in his David Bowieish make-up and clothing, giving this vibe of eccentric sexuality.

What follows is an ensuing tale of sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll. For the first 45 – 60 minutes the film is near perfection, but towards the middle to the end of the film it begins to drag heavily at certain points but the performance by Stewart as Joan Jett more than makes up for it. I was also impressed with Fanning, taking on the role of Currie completely shattered her typecast as a young, sweet, and naïve girl. The only problem that lies with Fanning’s performance is that she’s hit or miss – some scenes she’s pretty damn good, and in others she’s flat.

The real treat of the film is Michael Shannon. He’s just so fucking strange. He’s a genius and a pervert all wrapped into one. He steals every scene in the movie that he’s in, dominating your attention. The scene where he’s prowling the bar in search for another member (eventually finding Currie) is just excellent, the look that Shannon holds on his face is that of a dangerous predator, looking to strike and sink his teeth into his prey.

Michael Shannon as Kim Fowley in the best performance of 2010 (thus far).

This is a pretty solid film that would have been better if the structure of the narrative was a little tighter. As far as a music biopic goes, it captivates the brutality of the music industry and of the shitty people you have to deal with. The only thing the film leaves me wanting more of is Michael Shannon.

Review: 7.5/10

Author: Frank Mengarelli

Everybody relax, Frank's here. After going to film school at Columbia College Chicago, Frank decided to underachieve with his vast knowledge of film into a career in civil service. Frank had a brief stint as a film blogger, and then he met the heterosexual love of his life, Nick Clement. The two instantly bonded over their love from everything to Terence Malick to THE EXPENDABLES films. Some of Frank's favorite filmmakers are Terence Malick, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Sylvester Stallone, Oliver Stone and Spike Lee. Some of his favorite films are THE TREE OF LIFE, STAR WARS (all of them), BAD LIEUTENANT, THE THING and ALL THAT JAZZ. Frank spends his free time with his dog Roger, collecting any Star Wars collectible he can find and trying to finish his pretentious, first person narrative novel(la), LARGE MEN IN SMALL CARS..

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