Have you ever Googled "most punk movies?" All the usual ones that you'd expect to pop up do - Sid and Nancy, SLC Punk, Punk's Not Dead etc are all there but one film isn't that I really expected to be: 1995's Empire Records. This might seem like a strange choice to be regarded as a punk rock film but there are many themes throughout the film that really scream out punk rock to me. In this blog I'll do my best to explain.
For those who don't know, Empire Records is set in a music store that is under threat of being taken over by a large chain. The film is set over the course of one exceptional day where the group of slackers and misfits who work there, along with their boss, come together, learn to work as a team and learn about each other in order to stave off the corporate giant.
Throughout the film the main theme is "Damn The Man". Lucas, a character who first discovers about the impending takeover, tries and fails to earn the money to stave it off and thus sets off a chain of events that shape the film. Straight away this is an example of trying to stand up for yourself and for something you believe in. So punk rock!
Another big theme is how the group of youths who work in the shop, despite being so different and having their own problems, come together and stand for something they really believe in. You have AJ the super talented artist with all the potential in the world but who is holding himself back, Debra who has a troubled home life and self harms, Corey who is under pressure to get into a top university and turns to drugs to help her and you have Warren who is a young teen who shop lifts and eventually threatens to shoot AJ but who is looking for somewhere to belong. I could also list the other characters but by now you probably get the point. Despite all their differences they are like a family who really care about each other. Like all good families when the chips are down they come together and support each other. Just like in the underground punk rock scene, people from all walks of life come together and support and help each other despite their own problems.
The best example of this is during the finale of the film where the staff of Empire Records decide to put on a gig to help save the store. How many benefit gigs have you been to? Where a bunch of good willed people come together to put on a show to help support a local charity or help out a band needing money or to help keep a venue alive. Benefit gigs happen all of the time in the punk world and it's another reason I love the genre so much.
So there we go, so many things I've discovered from being a part of the punk rock scene and big themes of Empire Records. Empire Records is definitely a punk rock movie.