Movie Review: The end of the Ramones’ century

It’s officially time to admit punk is dead. Punk is no longer about rocking out in high school and not knowing why you found Judy, the girl by the smoking doors, so sexy. Now it’s the power anthem for disenfranchised kids in the suburbs who didn’t get the BMW for their sixteenth birthday. Punk has foregone the righteous rage and power chords of its heyday to wallow in corporate money. While Johnny Ramone’s death begins to recede in the culture’s consciousness, it’s time to make one last suicide run at the bastards like Good Charlotte and Simple Plan who’ve ruined it all. Time to look back at when it all began, in a seedy bar called CBGB’s with a band called the Ramones.

Collecting archival interviews, rare concert footage and fly-on-the-wall B-roll, directors Jim Fields and Michael Gramaglia bring audiences a lovingly produced history of the forefathers of punk in their documentary, End of the Century: The Ramones Story. We’re privy to rare moments of lucidity from bassist Dee Dee Ramone and stories of rock ‘n’ roll stardom gone out of control (especially the exploits of Dee Dee’s psychotic girlfriend, like attempting to cut off his thumbs so he couldn’t play). Not that it was all groupies and drugs. The film reminds us the Ramones never quite reached mainstream acceptance, though that could be hyperbole on the directors’ part. Still, we get a very complete history of the band as the filmmakers leave no story untold. Which is a bit of a problem. At 110 minutes, the documentary feels too long and unfocused, coming off a bit like a VHI special. For a band renowned for its spastic energy and breakneck tempo, the documentary is surprisingly conservative. Moving at its own comfortable pace, the energy of the Ramones is dismissed for a more professional tone.

Still, it’s a thrill to see a fresh Joey Ramone take to the stage like a hurricane of adolescent rage, dropping his mike in the fervor of their early performances. When the band hit “Judy is a Punk” to an unexpected crowd, the results are mesmerizing. A perfect introduction to the originators of punk, the documentary will be an eye opener for the uninitiated. But for those wearing their black leather jackets and torn jeans with pride, End of the Century gives you one last look before punk took the office corner in accounting.

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