It would have been a rockin’ good time without the metal head jerk.
“Metal Lords” has divided my viewing experience. It wants to share its love for heavy metal rock with cameos from Judas Priest and a number of hits from Black Sabbath and Metallica, and it wants to show its sensitive side, but parts of it feel too mean-spirited for me to enjoy.
The crass character I could do without is Hunter Sylvester (Adrien Greensmith), who is the biggest metal head in high school, along with his only friend Kevin Schlieb (Jaeden Martell), and he’s a jerk to everyone. Hunter insults his fellow students and psychiatrist father (Brett Gelman), and decides to pick fights with a group of bullies. He even steals his father’s Amex to buy a $13,000 drum set.
They decide to compete in the Battle of the Bands contest, under the name “Skull F*cker,” and they need a bass player. Kevin sees the benefits of a cello player named Emily Spector (Isis Hainsworth from “Emma”), but Hunter thinks that would be “gay.” He’s one to talk since some of the best rockers are gay, and his band name “Skull F*cker.” But he still won’t come around.
The sweetness comes in as Kevin develops feelings for Emily, who goes ballistic as part of a medical condition, and she choses not to take her pills. Some of her “issues” go a long way, but when she’s herself, you’re able to see the goodness in her, and Hainsworth does an impressive job. And Martell is a bright young actor with a wise resume (“It,” “The Lodge,” “Knives Out,” etc.), and he’s able to adapt to the rock world with the hair, glasses, and age.
“Game of Thrones” creator D.B. Weiss and director Peter Sollett (“Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist”) both give parts of “Metal Lords” a nostalgic feel, especially the way Kevin and Emily do their own cover version of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs.” That’s a fresh song, hearing the cello being added to the mix is fun.
Maybe I was so disillusioned by the fact that Hunter has to be unlikable, and even if he does apologize to some of his fellow students, he still doesn’t do the same to his dad. Or maybe he did, and we don’t get to see it, but that hint is not so much convincing. Metal heads can drop F bombs the only if they present them with sincerity and emotions. “Metal Lords” overdoes on those kind of sour notes, and ends up being tedious.
Hunter would eventually end up in a mental hospital for his behavior with Joe Manganiello cameoing as a former rocker-turned-doctor. And when Kevin finds out, he must break him out, despite Hunter’s mean attitude, disapproval of Emily, and often causing Kevin of betraying him when he decides to perform at a wedding. If anything, he should have stuck with that band, instead of “Skull F*cker” to begin with, because they’re nicer and more honest. And BTW, because the Battle of the Bands takes place at school, the dean (Sufe Bradshaw) makes them change the name to “Skull Flower.” You know how schools are with censors and all.
“Metal Lords” is a movie I half liked and half disliked, thus being the definition of a mixed review. If we didn’t have the metal head jerk and the bullies he deliberately pisses off, we would have had a sweet and wise film with Kevin and Emily. They’re the ones you really sympathize.
Streaming on Netflix Tomorrow