Bestinau got that-
Thankfully, director Peter Sollett (“Raising Victor Vargas,” “Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist”) often slows down during the film’s second half long enough to sell this Gen X fantasy about its enduring appeal (and character-building side effects). of being a teenage metalhead.
In “Metal Lords,” Kevin and Hunter’s friendship is put to the test by Emily (Isis Hainsworth), a Scottish-American cellist who likes Kevin but Hunter doesn’t, because, uh, girls. This kind of feel-good/formula-esque progress story seemed odd by the time “Wayne’s World” director Penelope Spheeris revived the He-Man Woman Hater’s Club for her Amblin-produced “Little Rascals” revival. Yet Hunter inadvertently educates Kevin at school about the true meaning of metal.
“Metal Lords” ultimately focuses on all three protagonists rather than their limited role in pushing the plot toward its foregone conclusion. The movie may be cinema-like comfort food, but the makers deserve our trust and provide all the essential beats they need.
That said, Hunter’s loud personality dominates the uninspired first half of the film. He eventually becomes more interesting as a foil to other characters, but Hunter initially (and repeatedly) steams up on his best friend Kevin to overcompensate for his own (relatively mild) daddy issues. Because even though Hunter gets almost everything he wants in life, he just can’t have a relationship with Dr. Sylvester (Brett Gelman), his spark plug divorced father. Fortunately, Hunter’s relationship with Dr. Sylvester has a tender tenderness that makes even their most glaring differences of opinion seem convincing.
For a while, Hunter has been marked by the spread of band posters along his basement walls, including formative metal bands like Judas Priest and Anthrax, and newer acts like Amon Amarth and Opeth. It soon becomes clear that Hunter has an outdated view of what’s cool about metal. Fortunately, he is not embarrassed or indulged as a result of his unkind behavior. And Emily and Kevin’s awkward courtship eventually becomes an important part of the film’s story and not just a plot device.
A final turning point comes about 43 minutes into “Metal Lords,” after Emily and Kevin have sex in the back of her family’s van. Kevin joins her in her bedroom where Emily is allowed to take the lead for a bit: they have a staring contest and at her suggestion he lies on top of her. Emily is still essentially a standard character, but the heartfelt and convincing expression of her puppy love for Kevin proves that the film’s makers know when to slow down long enough to familiarize yourself with some familiar plot twists. Even the dysfunctional relationship between Dr. Sylvester and Hunter develops nicely thanks to the film’s strong cast and comedic timing in a few key scenes that are affectionate, funny, and well-paced enough to sell the film’s otherwise canned drama. In this way, Sollett and Weiss would do well to represent teens as we (or actually some of us) would like to imagine them rather than how they really are.