Here’s an old pile of trash, every inch of it delightfully reeking. It goes back a decade, when it was released as “Generation X-Tinct,” though its style is situated among the grimiest floors of the 70s grindhouse. Judging from this thing’s premise alone, it wouldn’t even be worth a blurb in the annals of exploitation cinema. In here there be losers of the film’s new title, so worthless that they shouldn’t deserve the title “punk.” “Slacker” is not so suiting either, since the term suggests someone with potential.
Not-so-tough tough-guy Bobby Tilton (Mike Passion) and his pals loiter in a bar and everywhere else, spouting anti-yuppie rants and enough homophobic insults to qualify the movie as a gay camp item. Whenever Tilton gets himself in it deep, the soundtrack flies into a punk score that must be the product of speed freaks. Writer-director Mike Pacitto needed a story, so he has Tilton’s buddy killed off to send Tilton after the wrong man, a barmaid’s yuppie boyfriend. But “American Punks” is really about presenting a series of ranting freakouts, with loopy, invective-heavy dialog to match.
And when I say ranting, I mean non-stop. Passion, who could be the bratty younger brother of Steve Martin in “Little Shop of Horrors,” settles into a performance so kitschy and maniacal that any producers thinking to restage “Reefer Madness” should look the actor up. I bet the “Rocky Horror” crowd would love so see that remake, as they would dig the hell out of this little treat from the 90s, a certified late-night pleasure, so bizarre it must be surreal.
After the first two scenes, you’d guess that Passion also downed speed during shooting. But according to the actor’s retrospective essay included in the DVD – along with a commentary track and some audition clips – he was just trashed, with a bottle of Wild Turkey always at arm’s reach. He deserves much of the credit for the film’s madcap outcome – though James R. Smith, as a creepy bar goer, channels Divine out of drag, while Lonnie Jackson’s stilted cop also brings unintentional, howling laughter. That’s right – it’s zany all over.