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METAL LORDS movie review

METAL LORDS is directed by Peter Sollett. The film is written by DB Weiss, and stars Jaeden Martell, Isis Hainsworth, Adrian Greensmith, Sufe Bradshaw, Joe Manganiello, and Brett Gelman.

Relentless headbanger Hunter and his insecure friend Kevin are playing music relentlessly to make it big with their band. In high school, however, the two are outcasts. Needing to expand their band to play in a forthcoming Battle of the Bands competition, Kevin tries to recruit cello player Emily, with whom he falls in love, but Hunter will have no part of it. Will the band make it and win the Battle of the Bands, or will they be derailed and disbanded before the competition due to inner turmoil?

Anyone who knows me knows I love hard rock and heavy metal, and I’ll watch anything that has to do with it, be it a documentary, a biopic, or a narrative film. METAL LORDS had been hyped up in a few media outlets catering to my favorite genres of music, and when it hit Netflix, I knew it would be something I'd be watching. While the enthusiasm and the film’s love of metal certainly got me giddy at times, as a whole it’s not a strong film with its overabundance of unnecessary subplots and tertiary characters, tonal inconsistencies, and shallow characterizations that don’t do justice to the movie’s potential.

Where I’ll give METAL LORDS credit is the film’s love of metal. From start to finish, it’s largely a love letter to the genre. Characters discuss and worship these bands, with posters on their walls and shirts on their backs. It’s a movie sure to immediately get the attention of lifelong headbangers. Also brilliant is the casting of Jaeden Martell (aka Jaeden Lieberher), who has become one of my favorite young actors of recent years with roles in movies like IT and KNIVES OUT. He brings the perfect innocence and want for success to this movie, and he’s completely believable and likable. Casting of the majority of the players here is fairly well done.

A major issue that plagues METAL LORDS is its lack of depth. The characters are as shallow as a kiddie pool; what you see on the surface is what you get. Everyone’s more-or-less the same at the beginning of the movie as they are at the end. The characters’ home lives are barely explored at all, leaving their extended family members as tertiary persons and nothing more. Everyone does their best with the material, but it’s weak material throughout. In many ways the movie feels more like an episodic collection of vignettes that ditches characters and plot elements haphazardly. You can’t just make a movie about metal and expect it to automatically be good.

The movie also can’t decide what kind of movie it should be. The film was given an R rating from the MPA, yet it’s a surprisingly sweet-natured movie at times more befitting of a PG-13. What gave the film its R was probably a) the name of the band in the film, which I won’t spoil in this review, and b) a party scene that features fully nude people, quite unnecessarily. Either keep it a sweet PG-13 experience or go all out for the “Hard R.” Don’t give us a tonally inconsistent mess.

The single biggest problem with METAL LORDS is its failure to make Hunter a sympathetic character until the very end of the movie. This guy has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. He’s rude to people, including those who show him respect. He hates all other musicians. He’s unaccepting, and even bashes potential prospective band members despite their potential. When you fail to make one of the main characters likable, you’ve failed to make a good movie. Had the character started rough around the edges and gradually improved, this film would’ve fared better. But the treatment of this character is hugely disappointing given the potential he had. The actor isn’t to blame here, but the weak writing hurts and ruins that could’ve been a great character.

METAL LORDS has a great love of rock and metal, but the inconsistent tone, an unlikable main character, and the unnecessary abundance of underdeveloped characters and subplots derail this one and keep it from living up to the potential. If you’ve got time to kill and you’ve got Netflix, it’s a decent way to kill an hour and a half, but don’t expect the next great metal-based film.

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