Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll (without the drugs)
Rock Star
Review by Ross Anthony

Are you a head-banger? Mark Wahlberg is (at least, in this role). He so worships the lead singer to heavy metal band "Steel Dragon" that beyond singing each note to every song, he lets girlfriend Jennifer Aniston pierce his left nipple to further emulate his rock idol.

Mark's vocal talent and enthusiasm bend his own band in the wrong direction. "We don't want to be a cover band," bass player/friend Rob explains. Hard-headed-banger Mark retorts, "We're not a cover band, we're a tribute band!" It's just this kind of single-mindedness that gets Mark kicked out of his own band ... and into Steel Dragon.

But the story isn't so much about rock and roll as it is about the price one pays for it. As Rob once warned him, "You don't know where Bobby Beers ends and you start." In "Rock Star" Mark takes his talent and drive to the wall (wahl?) then spends the rest of the time sorting out his identity. Will he find it? Will the powerful onslaught of easy sex and rock star glory overwhelm him as so many before? Will Jennifer be able to tolerate him and his new life? Actually, I think you'll quite enjoy the few last chords of this tune.

As for the music, (with a few tasteful exceptions) it's straight out heavy metal. The likes of which, Judas Priest, AC/DC, Dio, Kiss, Nugent, Motley Crue used to play back in the day. And whoever sings for Mark does a smashing job, while Mark does an equally fine job of syncing. Unfortunately, (at least in my particular showing - Century City Loews) the film's sound separation and mix fell flat. Making little to no use of the six-channel surround system, plainly monophonic. And ... NOT loud.

Aside from the sound, the script itself feels heavily trimmed. Perhaps, the original screenplay called for a three-hour film ... a mini-epic like "Almost Famous" (which is a very good film). Though "Rock Star" takes to a sticky opening (that fight scene is so pansy), by the end, you'll find yourself wanting more. In retrospect, Mark's friend, Rob (Olyphant does a great job with the small role) remains sorely underused. I would have enjoyed more introductory scenes strengthening that relationship while carefully building up to the clash between Mark and his original band.

With enhanced attention paid to his earlier life, we would have been more invested in him while in Steel Dragon. As is, Wahlberg (oddly enough, a former hip-hop artist) certainly pulls it off, but at the expense of a stronger emotional component; we watch more because the story's good than because we sympathize. This (and the sound mix) hold the film back from an "A" rating.

Incidentally, "Good Vibrations" was written by Donnie and Mark Wahlberg (and two other guys) and performed by Marky Mark and The Funky Bunch. Also Jennifer sings on "Believe in Me." Oh, one other point, the film chooses its eclectic rock music well, the tune, "Once in a Lifetime" by Talking Heads backs its scene perfectly.

(Metal fans might recognize some of their favorite musicians rocking the stage with the actors from Jason Bonham to assorted members of Dokken, Ozzy, and Third Eye Blind. The film is set in 1985.)

  • Rock Star. Copyright © 2001. Rated R.
  • Starring Mark Wahlberg, Jennifer Aniston, Jason Flemyng, Tim Olyphant, Tim Spall, Dominic West.
  • Directed by Stephen Herek.
  • Written by John Stockwell.
  • Produced by Toby Jaffe, Robert Lawrence at Warner Bros./Bel-Air/Maysville.


Copyright © 2001. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit:

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 07:55:41 PDT