Metal Lords Review: Netflix’s Heavy Metal Comedy Is Way Too Light

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Written by “Game of Thrones” co-creator DB Weiss, “Metal Lords” is small and patchy, even by the standards of a Netflix comedy.

A high school comedy about an Ozzy-obsessed outcast who trick his only friend into forming a post-death metal duo called SkullFucker to win the Battle of the Bands (and prove his worth to all the popular kids in their Portland suburb), Peter Sollett’s “Metal Lords” is small and patchy, even by the standards of a throwaway Netflix movie that feels like it’s already been forgotten for you.

Screenwriter DB Weiss may be a bona fide headbanger who has spent most of his career trying to get SkullFucker on screen – the “Game of Thrones” co-creator first started buying the script before ever getting a set foot in Westeros – but most of the story beats in this well-known coming-of-age saga are just as metal as the Imagine Dragons cover that knocks out SkullFucker’s rivals during the climax. It’s not until the third act that “Metal Lords” finally shreds with one of the rage against the machine frustration fueled in the same way let’s start a band movies like “We Are the Best!” and “Linda Linda Linda”, and it’s hard to imagine that a Chuck Klosterman cameo or a killer rendition of “War Pigs” will be enough to keep heavy metal purists on the hook for so long.

But their perseverance would be rewarded to some extent, and not just because Tom Morello wrote SkullFucker’s big song. The devil is in the details when it comes to “Metal Lords”, which proves to be the saving grace of a movie that the devil desperately needed to make an appearance anywhere. As thin and stilted as this thing may be scene-by-scene (an awkward bit where SkullFucker auditions for new bassists and crystallizes the failed “‘Sing Street’ meets Judas Priest” vibe), Sollett’s film radiates vividly with the all-too-recognizable energy of being an undisturbed kid seeking any kind of identity that can anchor you in place “Metal Lords” may never find the rhythm a movie like this needs to hit the sweet spot between goofy and charming. remain, but there is a stubborn grain of truth in how casually the young characters learn to hear themselves by listening to Judas Priest.

That said, meek narrator Kevin Schlieb (a very understated Jaeden Martell) would listen to just about anything Hunter Sylvester (electric newcomer Adrian Greensmith) told him to do. Every clumsy outsider with a big personality needs a helping hand, and that’s exactly the role Kevin plays for his only friend. Kevin’s voiceover tells us that metal is just the latest of many different phases Hunter has gone through since his slimy dad (all too obviously Brett Gelman) broke up from his mom, but the music fits the rage he’s inherited of the divorce. The child also has the right haircut for it. Becoming a metalhead in high school in 2022 has the added bonus of Hunter being so far off the popularity index that people have to accept him for who he is or not at all, and he doesn’t seem to mind almost everyone taking the second option. All that matters to Hunter is that his shy buddy Kevin is, by a wild stroke of luck, a totally sick drummer. And so SkullFucker is born.

The only problem is, Kevin and Hunter need a bassist, and they’re out of friends. Being a duo worked well for groups like Tempel and Lightning Bolt (or The White Stripes, as Kevin quietly points out), but they didn’t have to compete in Battle of the Bands at Glenwood Lake. When Kevin one day loses her shit while the mouse-like Emily (Isis Hainsworth) rehearses marching bands, he thinks he’s found the perfect fit—her classic cello would be a pretty unexpected sound in a high school talent show—but Hunter refuses to entertain the idea of ​​playing with a girl.

His unalloyed fixation on the classic metal image leads to some decidedly non-metallic choices, all of which would be more intriguing if Weiss’s whimsical script were even the slightest bit interested in exploring what drives Hunter. Instead, “Metal Lords” clumsily tries to divide its attention between the two friends, unfolding with all the broken chords and bum tones of a half-hearted band practice. There’s something pure about the tunnel vision approach the story takes to the beginning of SkullFucker – finding something you can call your own at that age really can be all-consuming – but the film’s choppy flow and stilted comedy leave the endearingly drawn characters even more adrift than they are to begin with.

A well-observed scene of two characters losing their virginity in a synagogue parking lot is the rare and funny exception that proves the rule, but other more serious details (particularly Emily’s struggle with depression) aren’t covered with the nuance they demand. . Bizarre interfaces – including an early car chase that plants the seed for Kevin to become his own person, and a late detour to a rehab center run by Joe Manganiello – only serve to distract from fleshing out the dynamics between the bands that left us SkullFucker want. to defeat all his enemies, and Hunters’ insistence that they “don’t fit in” is never given the time it takes to become more than a mantra. He says metal is about sacrifice, but “Metal Lords” sacrifices way too much in its effort to stay light as a feather while going through some major teenage woes. It’s not until SkullFucker is behind their instruments that the movie goes hard enough to find something cathartic in the same dissonance that holds the rest back.

Grade: C+

“Metal Lords” is now streaming on Netflix.

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