SLC Punk!

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SLC Punk!
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJames Merendino
Written byJames Merendino
Produced bySam Maydew
Peter Ward
CinematographyGreg Littlewood
Edited byEsther P. Russell
Music bysee below
Beyond Films
Blue Tulip Productions
Straight Edge
Distributed bySony Pictures Classics
Release dates
  • September 24, 1998 (1998-09-24) (Germany)
  • January 22, 1999 (1999-01-22) (Sundance)
  • April 16, 1999 (1999-04-16) (US)
Running time
98 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Box office$299,569

SLC Punk! is a 1998 American comedy-drama film written and directed by James Merendino. The film centers around Steven "Stevo" Levy, a college graduate and punk living in Salt Lake City during the mid-1980s.

SLC Punk! was chosen as the opening-night feature at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival.[2]

Merendino created the film based on his experience growing up in Salt Lake City. Although the film is not autobiographical, Merendino has said that many characters were based on people he knew.[3]


The film outlines the daily life of a punk named Stevo in Salt Lake City, Utah, in the fall of 1985. Stevo's best friend, "Heroin" Bob, is also a punk. The nickname "Heroin" is ironic, as Bob is afraid of needles and actually believes that any drug (with the notable exception of alcohol and cigarettes) is inherently dangerous.

Stevo and Bob go from party to party while living in a dilapidated apartment. They spend much of their time fighting with members of other subcultures, particularly rednecks. Stevo has a casual relationship with a girl named Sandy, while Bob is in love with Trish, the owner of a head shop.

The two of them are shaped by their experiences with their parents. Stevo's parents, now divorced, are former hippies who are proud of their youthful endeavors; however, Stevo is revolted by what he perceives as their "selling out" by becoming affluent Reagan Republicans, which they try to justify. Stevo's grades are excellent, and when his father sends an application to Harvard Law School and Stevo is accepted, he nevertheless rejects it because of his beliefs. By contrast, Bob's father is a mentally ill alcoholic who mistakes his son and his friend for Central Intelligence Agency operatives and chases them away with a shotgun when they visit him on his birthday.

Stevo begins to see the drawbacks of living the punk life. Sean, a fellow punk, was a drug dealer who once attempted to stab his mother while under the influence of an entire 100-dose sheet of acid; in the present, Stevo finds him panhandling on the street with some obvious mental issues.

While Stevo understands that his relationship with Sandy is casual, he is still enraged when he discovers her having sex with another man and savagely beats him, later loathing himself because his action contradicts his own belief in anarchism. His social circle also begins to drift away, as his dealer, Mark, and his friend, Mike, both leave Salt Lake City (Mark to return to Miami, Mike to attend the University of Notre Dame). Soon after, Stevo attends a party and falls in love with a rich girl named Brandy, who points out that his clothing and hair are fashion as opposed to true rebellion. Rather than being offended, Stevo takes the criticism thoughtfully, and they passionately kiss.

At the same party, Bob complains of a headache (induced by Spandau Ballet's "She Loved Like Diamond" playing on a stereo), and is given Percodan, which he consumes with alcohol after being told the pills are simply "vitamins" that will help his headache. The accidental drug overdose kills him in his sleep. When Stevo discovers Bob's body, he breaks down completely. At the funeral, he appears with a shaved head and changed clothing, having decided he is done with being a punk. He plans to go to Harvard, and earlier narration suggests that he eventually marries Brandy. He notes in his closing narration that his youthful self would probably kick his future self's ass, wryly describing himself as having been ultimately just another poser.

The "Tribes"[edit]

The film features several cliques presented as tribes. The film focuses primarily on the punk tribe, but includes several others as well:

  • Punks: Stevo, Bob, Sean, Megan, and Mike belong to this tribe, although Mike does not dress the part. The punks are rivals of the mods, nazis and rednecks.
  • Mods: Mods wear suits and ties, and they ride scooters. They are generally the rivals of the punks, but the character John the Mod acts as a diplomat who freely moves between the tribes.
  • Rednecks: Rednecks are rural Utah folk who wear trucker caps and flannel, and drive around in big trucks. Punks hate them for their conservative views.
  • Neo-Nazis: Neo-Nazis are white power skinheads who wear pseudo-military fatigues and Nazi armbands. Punks and mods are shown to hate them.
  • The Heavy Metal Guys: They have long hair and flannel. Not much else is known about them, except that Stevo explains that they are predatory toward the new wavers.
  • New Wavers: They are people who dress like new romantics and are said to be the least threatening of the tribes. They are described as being "the new hippies".


Production notes[edit]

The film was shot in an aggressive, highly kinetic style, with sweeping crane shots, fast dolly moves, and jump cuts.

Most of the film was shot on location in Salt Lake City, with a scene taking place in Evanston, Wyoming. Numerous scenes took place in locally well-known areas:

  • The high school, which Heroin Bob calls "Southeast High", is West High School near downtown Salt Lake City.
  • The scene where Heroin Bob chastises Stevo for using acid takes place at Presidents Circle at the University of Utah.
  • Stevo introduces the "poseurs" and gives his "Who Started Punk Rock?" speech at the now-defunct Cottonwood Mall in Holladay, Utah. Sean's "women's clothing" job interview takes place inside a Cottonwood Mall storefront.
  • Stevo and Sandy drop acid at Memory Grove Park, a World War I memorial park.
  • Many exterior street scenes occur just north of the Frank E. Moss Federal Courthouse in the downtown area. The scene where Stevo and Sandy run into Sean begging was shot on Market Street. You can see The Felt and Boston Buildings in the background. Sean is standing in front of the old Odd Fellows Building which currently houses The Dennis Group Engineering consulting at 26 W Market Street. Trish's head shop was on the 200 block of E 300 S. The Broadway Plaza at 250 E 300 S is visible when Mark walks in.
  • The ECP concert was shot at the old Deseret News Paper Mill at the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon, posing as The SLC Indian Center.
  • The scenes depicting Heroin Bob's funeral were shot inside and outside The Cathedral of the Madeleine. The cathedral is located just east of downtown Salt Lake City.
  • The apartment where Stevo and Heroin Bob live was the Big D Construction building, across from Pioneer Park.
  • The store where they bought the "Wyoming Beer" is 'Porter's Fireworks and Liquor' on the outskirts of Evanston.


SLC Punk!
Soundtrack album by
ReleasedMarch 16, 1999
GenrePunk rock
LabelHollywood Records
  1. "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden" - The Suicide Machines (originally performed by Lynn Anderson)
  2. "Sex and Violence" - The Exploited
  3. "I Love Livin' in the City" - Fear
  4. "1969" - The Stooges
  5. "Too Hot" - The Specials
  6. "Cretin Hop" - Ramones
  7. "Dreaming" - Blondie
  8. "Gangsters (song)" - The Specials
  9. "Kiss Me Deadly" - Generation X
  10. "Rock N' Roll" - The Velvet Underground
  11. "Gasoline Rain" - Moondogg
  12. "Mirror in the Bathroom" - Fifi (originally performed by The English Beat)
  13. "Amoeba (song)" - The Adolescents
  14. "Kill the Poor" - Dead Kennedys
  15. "Look Back and Laugh" - Minor Threat

Eight Bucks Experiment, the band portraying fictional English band ECP, were featured on a European release of the soundtrack.[4] The three songs they recorded live for the punk concert scene were sent back to the band after filming. They self-released the songs on the One Of These Days EP through their Blue Moon Recordings label website.[5]


Box office[edit]

The film premiered in the United States at the Sundance Film Festival on January 22, 1999.[6][7] It received a wide release on April 16, 1999, grossing $36,218 on its opening weekend and amassing a total domestic gross of $299,569 by the time it left theaters.[8]

Critical reception[edit]

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 62% on 34 reviews, with an average rating of 5.6/10. The website's critics consensus reads: "Merging anarchic spirit with straightforward melodrama, SLC Punk is a hit-and-miss odyssey of youthful rebellion elevated by Matthew Lillard's dramatically potent star turn."[9] Metacritic assigned the film a weighted average score of 50 out of 100, based on 21 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[10]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three-out-of-four stars, praising Lillard's performance and writing that the film offers "a little something there for all of us".[11] Janet Maslin, writing for The New York Times, called the film "likable for its outlandishness, less so when it shows a self-important streak".[12] Dennis Harvey of Variety called it "energetic but poorly structured", writing that the film "doesn't quite grasp how its slick, flashy package undermines any actual punk cred".[6] Nathan Rabin of The A.V. Club wrote that "S.L.C. Punk! takes a potentially fascinating subject and reduces it to a mawkish compendium of film-festival clichés".[13] David Luty of Film Journal International wrote a mostly negative review of the film, stating that it "cannot quite reach the richer depths it grasps for, because it doesn't have the material to support the large dramatic distance Stevo has to travel".[14]


In April 2013, director James Merendino announced that a sequel to SLC Punk! titled Punk's Dead would begin filming later in the year and would be released in 2014 with most of the original cast reprising their roles. The film was successfully funded by an Indiegogo campaign launched on October 27, 2013, and completed on January 15, 2014. Merendino said of the sequel, “I made SLC Punk! when I was a kid, and accordingly, the story is naive, and, as just a coming of age story, not finished. The characters are facing big questions, 18 years later, as outsiders, punk rockers… What relevance do they have in a world where all statements have already been made? In the years since I made SLC Punk!, it has found a rather large and supportive following who have been very kind to me. So in making a sequel, I feel I owe it to those people to really do it right."[15]

In May 2014, the film was announced to be shooting in June, with its cast officially announced to include Devon Sawa, Michael Goorjian, Adam Pascal and James Duval returning as Sean, Heroin Bob, Eddie and John the Mod, respectively, with Ben Schnetzer appearing as Heroin Bob's son, Ross, Machine Gun Kelly as Crash, and Hannah Marks and Sarah Clarke portraying the female leads.[16] Also in May, Matthew Lillard and Jason Segel, who starred in the original film, announced through social media that they would not be reprising their roles.[17][18]

Comic book adaptation[edit]

In 1998, SLC Punk! was adapted into a comic book, illustrated by Dean Haspiel.[19]


  1. ^ "SLC PUNK (15)". British Board of Film Classification. 2000-03-01. Archived from the original on 2016-03-05. Retrieved 2013-03-17.
  2. ^ ""SUMMER FILMS: INDIES; Festival to Festival, a Movable Marketplace," New York Times, Sunday, May 2, 1999". Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved February 18, 2017.
  3. ^ Hicks, Chris (2003-08-08). "S.L.-filmed 'Punk!' becomes a cult classic". Deseret News. p. W05.
  4. ^ "8discography.html". Archived from the original on 2010-12-28. Retrieved 2010-02-17.
  5. ^ "cd.html". Archived from the original on 2011-07-08. Retrieved 2010-02-17.
  6. ^ a b Dennis Harvey (January 25, 1999). "SLC Punk". Variety. Archived from the original on August 7, 2020. Retrieved September 1, 2018.
  7. ^ Joe Lynch (July 22, 2014). "Heroin Bob Returns From the Dead in Trailer to 'SLC Punk!' Sequel". Billboard. Retrieved September 1, 2018.
  8. ^ "SLC Punk!". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on September 2, 2018. Retrieved September 1, 2018.
  9. ^ "SLC Punk (1998)". Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on November 27, 2022. Retrieved August 21, 2023.
  10. ^ "SLC Punk! Reviews". Metacritic. Archived from the original on September 29, 2018. Retrieved September 1, 2018.
  11. ^ Roger Ebert (May 14, 1999). "SLC Punk! Movie Review & Film Summary (1999)". Archived from the original on April 29, 2020. Retrieved September 1, 2018.
  12. ^ Janet Maslin (April 16, 1999). "FILM REVIEW; It's a Tough Job, but Someone Has to Be a Punk in Utah". The New York Times. Archived from the original on January 15, 2020. Retrieved September 1, 2018.
  13. ^ Nathan Rabin (March 29, 2002). "S.L.C. Punk!". The A.V. Club. Archived from the original on August 7, 2020. Retrieved September 1, 2018.
  14. ^ David Luty (November 2, 2004). "SLC PUNK". Film Journal International. Prometheus Global Media. Archived from the original on September 1, 2018. Retrieved September 1, 2018.
  15. ^ Giroux, Jesse. "Exclusive interview with director James Merendino! New details on SLC Punk 2". Joblo. Archived from the original on 24 June 2015. Retrieved 3 June 2015.
  16. ^ Sneider, Jeff (6 May 2014). "'SLC Punk!' Sequel Shooting This Summer With Heroin Bob Set to Return". TheWrap. Archived from the original on 2 June 2015. Retrieved 3 June 2015.
  17. ^ Lillard, Matthew. "I'm officially not involved with SLC PUNK sequel. I know, I think it's weird too. But... There you go. Good luck to all involved". Twitter. Archived from the original on 19 June 2015. Retrieved 3 June 2015.
  18. ^ Mendyuk, Bridjet (7 May 2014). "SLC Punk! 2: Punk's Dead to be released by the end of 2014, details". AlternativePress. Archived from the original on 30 December 2014. Retrieved 3 June 2015.
  19. ^ "Dean Haspiel". Archived from the original on 2019-10-15. Retrieved 2019-10-15.

External links[edit]