Wake Up Punk Image

Wake Up Punk

By Josiah Teal | May 13, 2022

“You don’t have to be into the Sex Pistols to be punk. You just have to be aware of the injustice in the world,” proclaim punk advocates on the verge of burning priceless punk memorabilia. Nearly forty years after punk took the world by storm, the music and fashion are celebrated by the establishment the music swore to destroy. Joe Corre, son of ex-Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren, seeks to rebel against this commemoration of punk by torching his late father’s collection of punk artifacts. From the streets of 1970s London to the art galleries of modern Great Britain, Wake Up Punk is a rallying cry for social activists to preserve punk’s ethos and the spirit of “Anarchy in the U.K.,” even if it means destroying relics of punk past.

Director Nigel Askew chronicles the journey of Joe Corre and Vivienne Westwood leading up to their public burning. Corre and Westwood discuss their connections to the Sex Pistols and how the music landscape has radically changed in the last forty years. The documentary is politically charged and challenges the established order, even within the ranks of punk itself. Cries of “historical vandalism” only fuel Corre’s distaste for the commercial manipulation of punk, which further pushes him down his flame-filled path of punk destruction.

“…burning priceless punk memorabilia.”

Askew displays a strong sense of punk values throughout Wake Up Punk. The film creates a shared and sympathetic narrative towards Corre’s shouts for social change. While the burning of such priceless punk history will be difficult to watch for some fans, the act is displayed as brilliant performance art used as a spotlight for Corre to discuss issues of corporate greed and the impending doom of climate change. The filmmaker consistently circles back to the core ideas of punk’s Avante Garde and non-conformist philosophy by creating a rebellious anthem for the oppressed.

For a documentary centered around a genre of music, one would expect a significant amount of music; however, this is not the case. The film features a severe lack of punk rock and sparring footage of the punk icons the film surrounds. I understand creating a documentary on a budget and securing the rights to songs for the soundtrack can take a massive amount of those resources. But music documentaries need those songs on some level. Apart from the lack of music, the film features a small fictionalized subplot of Victorian children discussing punk values and capturing a business miser. The Victorian scenes do little to further the narrative and always detract from the message or momentum.

Growing up, I was a massive punk fan and still am to this day. I’ve seen a lot of great punk documentaries over the years and still yearn for more from the genre that brought the world “Nevermind the Bullocks Here’s The Sex Pistols.” Wake Up Punk captures the attitude and philosophy of punk with gusto, spitting out anarchist rants about Boris Johnson with effortless charisma. However, the central focus of the film is rough. It does not even establish the punk burning as the main story until a third of the way in. The lack of clarity and disjointed information ultimately keeps Askew’s production from joining the ranks of the great punk films that came before. Westwood’s stories about punk fashion and Sid Vicous are amazing, but in a documentary that cannot commit to a theme or thesis, it feels too little too late.

Wake Up Punk (2022)

Directed: Nigel Askew


Starring: Vivienne Westwood, Malcom McLaren, Joe Corre, etc.

Movie score: 5.5/10

Wake Up Punk Image

"…captures the attitude and philosophy of punk with gusto..."

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