Pump Up the Volume [1990]

Stars: Christian Slater, Ellen Greene, Samantha Mathis, Cheryl Pollak, Jeff Chamberlain
Genre: Drama, Music
Rating: R (Restricted)
Runtime: 102 minutes

In the suburban hinterlands of Arizona, pirate-radio DJ Hard Harry wages a one-man war against boredom from his bedroom transmitter by night. In between great Lenny Bruce-style stream-of-consciousness rants, Harry attacks the airwaves with the likes of the Descendents, Bad Brains, and Concrete Blonde, as well as occasionally kickin' it old school with some early hip-hop. By day, though, Hard Harry is Mark Hunter, a painfully shy new kid who's anonymous to the point of being invisible at Hubert Humphrey High School. Completely misunderstood by his '60s-era parents, Mark is desperate to keep his radio alter ego separate from his day-to-day persona, especially as his radio shows draw more attention from the authorities. Fellow misfit Nora (Samantha Mathis, in her first feature role) eventually discovers Hard Harry's true identity, much to Mark's chagrin, and the two of them become torchbearers against the stifling status quo of the town as they dodge the police, the school administration, and the FCC. There are familiar high school authority archetypes (the assistant principal with clip-on tie, lemon-yellow K-Mart short-sleeved dress shirt, military flattop, and bulky key ring) and a rather strained subplot of a corrupt school administration. Mainly, though, this is a rousing teen call-to-arms that showcases Slater's talents as he developed the cynical, sarcastic neo-Jack Nicholson delivery that would become his trademark. He's at his best during his radio monologues (making them truly seem ad-libbed), and his influences become clear as he checks out a copy of How to Talk Dirty and Influence People from the library. --Jerry Renshaw

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