Samantha Mathis and Christian Slater star in PUMP UP THE VOLUME, directed by Allan Moyle for New Line Cinema.

Pump Up the Volume (1990, Allan Moyle)

Everything director Moyle does in Pump Up the Volume builds the rest of the film. It’s not exactly he’s building good will, he’s shaping the possibilities of the film. It makes for a film where you can have a car chase, a comic relief moment, an inspirational message and a quiet character moment all in the same five minutes.

For example, while Christian Slater is definitely the film’s lead, it’s questionable whether or not he’s the protagonist in the traditional sense. He guides the viewer through the film far less than his romantic interest, Samantha Mathis. Moyle isn’t doing a character study or even an epical high school student story. It turns out he’s doing a story about a high school and finding the most interesting people in it, while focusing harder on a couple of them.

The film’s construction is brilliant, down to how to opening titles establish the ground situation and some of Slater’s character. In the first half of the film, Moyle gives Slater a bunch of monologues, which Slater nails, but these sequences are also extremely well-constructed by Moyle and editors Larry Bock and Janice Hampton. They’re transfixing. Volume succeeds because Moyle figures out a way to make Slater’s pirate radio DJ just as compelling to the viewer as the film’s characters.

Slater and Mathis are both fantastic. Lots of great supporting performances–Billy Morrissette, Ellen Greene, Scott Paulin and Annie Ross are standouts.

Moyle crafts Pump Up the Volume precisely and to great success.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by Allan Moyle; director of photography, Walt Lloyd; edited by Larry Bock and Janice Hampton; music by Cliff Martinez; production designer, Robb Wilson King; produced by Rupert Harvey and Sandy Stern; released by New Line Cinema.

Starring Christian Slater (Mark Hunter), Samantha Mathis (Nora Diniro), Ellen Greene (Jan Emerson), Scott Paulin (Brian Hunter), Mimi Kennedy (Marla Hunter), Cheryl Pollak (Paige Woodward), Billy Morrissette (Mazz Mazzilli), Andy Romano (Murdock), Anthony Lucero (Malcolm Kaiser), Robert Schenkkan (David Deaver) and Annie Ross (Loretta Creswood).

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