*½/**** Image A Sound A Extras D+
starring Gina Gershon, Drea De Matteo, Marc Blucas, Shelly Cole
screenplay by Cheri Lovedog & Robin Whitehouse
directed by Alex Steyermark
by Walter Chaw Released haphazardly in the same calendar year as Alex Proyas's endlessly disappointing Garage Days, Alex Steyermark's Prey for Rock & Roll travels similar garage band routes while taking the distaff trail and deciding to play it as if its central band, the cleverly monikered Clam Dandy, is better than horrible (in an L7 78-played-at-45 kind of way). My familiarity with grrrl rock begins and ends with a Seven Year Bitch concert at the base of Seattle's Space Needle about a decade ago, as well as a brief affection for Hammerbox, but I remember the genre being at its best full of anger and tempo. That Clam Dandy doesn't rock too terribly hard is a major stumbling block only exacerbated by director Steyermark's decision to feature a few of their listless, pop-inspired heavy metal tunes in their allegedly poignant entirety. It makes for rough-going in the not-so-proud Light of Day/Satisfaction tradition.
Jacki (Gina Gershon) is a failed rocker turning forty and frustrated that her ambitions as an arena rock troubadour have led to a lot of boozy honkytonk gigs and a day job at a tattoo parlour. Her band mates fill the traditional Afterschool Special roles of victim (Lori Petty, of a car), victim (Shelly Cole, of rape), and addict (Drea de Matteo, of bad men, bad liquor, and snort), and a rare she-October, he-July love affair blossoms between Jacki and the robotic Animal ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer's" Marc Blucas)--his character probably so named in the manner that tall men are dubbed "shorty" and fat men "slim." (A better name would've been "Mineral," and for as good as the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" series occasionally was, boy did it produce a stable of untalented stars.)
Prey for Rock & Roll never gets much more clever than the homonym of its title: you want it, it eats you up--and through it all there's glaring musical evidence that Clam Dandy is obscure and unsuccessful for a reason. Gershon is the only reason to watch the film, her performance courageous mainly in that it's an actress playing her age in a business that's actually more ruthless about aging than the music industry. That frustration at being a C-level afterthought best known for her willingness to play lesbian and bi-sexual characters (and eye-candy in Lenny Kravitz videos) while that one project that might make her a star remains forever, tantalizingly, out of reach fuels her portrayal of Jacki, making the film's message about the fickleness of fame for the unlucky deserving where the film's mad melodrama falls well short.
Lions Gate presents Prey for Rock & Roll on DVD in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer of striking detail taken from the film's 24p HD source. Colours are sharp (maybe too sharp), the image is bright (maybe too bright), and the level of detail--even in the dark scenes--is fairly impressive. As technology improves, films on minimal budgets and tight schedules like this one begin to more closely approximate their also-failed blockbuster brethren. Hurray for parity. The DD 5.1 audio mix startled me a few times with subtle atmospherics, most noticeably not in the semi-raucous performance sequences, but in de Matteo's apartment with the TV "behind" the viewer. A man quietly talking to my left at the back of the room gave me a good jump at least twice during the presentation. Nice work.
Steyermark presents an exceptionally typical yakker in which he reviews the casting of each of the characters, the minimal training some of them had with their respective instruments, and a few errata concerning make-up and location. It's not a bad commentary--it's also best suited for friends, fans, and family of Steyermark. Trailers for Prey for Rock & Roll, Shattered Glass, and what looks like a new page in the continuously written book of rape-revenge fantasies, Stealing Candy, round out the presentation. Originally published: April 20, 2004.