Coming of age comedy-dramas are a dime a dozen, but there’s only one SLC Punk! Starring Matthew Lillard, we’re taken on a journey of one Punk’s life in mid-80s Salt Lake City, Utah partying away his youth, sticking it to the man, and accepting the responsibilities that come with age. Sony gives this 90s classic a fitting 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release as part of the 11-film Sony Pictures Classics 30th Anniversary Collection with an impressive transfer and great audio - Highly Recommended
Steven “Stevo” (Matthew Lillard) is a Punk - with a capital “P” - he doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk. Offended by his conformist sellout parents (a hilarious Christopher McDonald and McNally Segal), he sticks it to the man by partying, fighting rednecks, and doing what he can to offend the abundant Mormon community with his best pal Heroin Bob (Michael A. Goorjian). When he has the chance to go to Harvard and as his friend community slowly dissolves, Stevo must reassess his life choices while staying true to himself.
Talk about the right movie at the right time. SLC Punk! was the perfect random video store rental at the exact right time I needed it. I was about sixteen or seventeen, and barely surviving high school. My friends group was constantly shifting and changing and I was staring down having to choose college, career, and make some major life choices. Then I watched this movie with my best friend at the time and it was exactly what I needed to see. As one of the odd kids that never quite fit in, I instantly related to Stevo. On the outside, I wasn’t a flashy punk with spiked hair but I was in spirit. Punks and outsiders were my kin and I needed that reassurance that I didn’t have to be anybody I didn’t want to be.
25 years later, SLC Punk! still hits. Folks were surprised at Lillard’s acting range in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks revival, but I knew he had it in him from this first viewing. He’s often hilarious but when the heavy dramatic punches come he leans into the hits delivering a soulful performance. Much of the film is a comedic look at the defiance of the social norms of the 1980s, but it also doesn’t shy away from serious looks at social conformism and non-compliance. While either side of the coin would be easy to skewer for a comedy, writer/director James Merendino wisely doesn’t hold anything back. Stevo’s life may look like pure freedom, but he’s aimless and lives in squalor. Likewise, his mom and dad may be “sellouts” but they’re secure.
SLC Punk! is one of those annual movies that I love to pull off the shelf and revisit as often as I can. Between moving locations, my own career shifts, and becoming a parent, it’d been a few too many years since my last visit with this film. Sony’s new 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray was the perfect time to reconnect with one of my favorite films of the 90s. Sure, they may be better coming-of-age films out there, but I never really connected to those flicks like this one. Looking back at it again I can see how much this movie impacted my outlook at a very impressionable age. And now that I’m into my 40s, I feel like I did alright for myself without completely "buying in."
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
SLC Punk! sticks it to the man with a new single-disc 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release from Sony exclusively part of their new 11-film Sony Pictures Classics 30th Anniversary Collection. The film is pressed on a BD-66 disc, the disc is housed in a standard case with slipcover art. The disc loads to a static image main menu with standard navigation options and the bonus features panel along the right side of the screen.
For its first UHD outing, Sony delivers a pretty damned fantastic 2160p Dolby Vision transfer for SLC Punk! that is clean and clear without losing all the attractive grit and grime that made it such a visceral visual experience. Details are sharp allowing you to fully soak in all of the impressive 80s-specific details with a healthy cinematic grain structure. In some sequences the grain can appear a bit thick, those punk parties are an example, but then for that kind of material, a pristine clean image wouldn’t be appropriate. No signs of smoothing or artifacting without any edge enhancement to speak of.
Dolby Vision offers plenty of highlights to the image with impressive black levels and contrast giving the transfer a terrific sense of three-dimensional depth. Colors are bold and sharp - just look at the hair - without appearing over-saturated. Blues are bright, yellows are lovely, and reds take on an appropriate crimson without blasting things out. Skin tones are natural and healthy without popping into orange or appearing overly red. Whites are crisp without blooming.
Another welcome addition to this disc is a full-throated DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio track. From the film’s music cues to dialog exchanges to sound effect placement, this is a rock-solid surround mix giving the channels plenty of life and activity. Even in a scene like when Stevo is trying to score some beer and they’re harassing the straights, there’s plenty of space and dimensionality to the mix. Likewise, Stevo and Bob’s dilapidated apartment maintains that rough and rickety sound quality of a barely furnished structure that could collapse at any moment. The party sequences are obviously the most active and engaging but this mix never wastes the soundscape offering subtle ways to keep those surround channels working.
For this disc release, fans are treated to a small but mighty variety of new and archival bonus features that are well worth checking out. The audio commentary is especially a highlight and a great listen. Also, a nice highlight is a new retrospective that sees James Merendino talking about making the film, the release, and how the film has held on over the years.
I loved SLC Punk! the first time I saw it as an impressionable teenage youth and I still love it today as a middle-aged media writer dad. It’s one of the many films I struggle to get other people to stop and watch but whenever I do, it’s always a victory. Matthew Lillard proved he had tremendous talent beyond playing a brash over-the-top slasher or the dopey best friend of a CGI cartoon dog. Now on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, the film looks and sounds better than ever with a great Dolby Vision transfer, fantastic audio mix, and a slim but still worthwhile collection of bonus features. Highly Recommended