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The Clash- Rude Boy

Legacy/Epic

At its core a review is a few words strung together doling out advice as to
whether or not you should drop your hard-earned cash on the endeavors of some
creative artist. So, yes I (eventually) did like Rude Boy, in part because
it’s hard to dislike a DVD that presents early live performances by The Clash
“White Riot,” Clash City Rocker,” “(White Man) In Hammersmith Pala is”
and more). Plus, there are portions of it that stay with you long after the credits
roll. But, to achieve this entertained and intellectual state, pay heed to my
WARNING! In the case of Rude Boy, a film that stars The Clash plus band
buddy Ray Gange, the MOST IMPORTANT thing I can offer is that you ABSOLUTELY
should watch the Interview segments in the Special Features section prior to
viewing the actual film. Why? Because Rude Boy is a film in the term’s
most broad sense. No, it’s not highly experimental to the point where indulgence
overtakes any sense of storytelling. There’s a rough idea of story here, but
that’s mainly due to the same players appearing in one scene after another.

Much of it has the sensation of being improvised by people who aren’t schooled in
that type of acting craft. Instead of film with its five acts, Rude Boy acts
more like a historical artifact. By accident and on purpose, filmmakers Jack
Hazan and David Mingay intended it that way. They filmed The Clash right around
the time the group was exploding in Great Britain while incorporating the
camera’s eye to the political upheaval that drove the band and that nation’s
young audience — high unemployment, racial problems, a burgeoning fascist
movement, Big Brother watching over everyone and the first signs of a
conservative movement that planned on washing the filth from the streets rather than
addressing the inherent problems. They even have a Gange and Strummer discussion
presenting the selfishness of capitalism and the all-for-one-one-for-all view of
socialism. Take a wild guess as to who stands on which side of the fence?

Minus the background provided by Hazan, Mingay and Gange you could end up
like me, watching the first 28 minutes of Rude Boy, confused, amazed and
bored. In my case, I shelved it for a period of time, and then enjoyed the fact
that I was unable to watch the rest due to lacking a satisfactorily working DVD
player. During this first portion of Rude Boy, images flickered across the
screen but not a lot happens. We get impressions of Ray, a non-actor who admits
that his association with the band probably helped him land a role he wasn't
looking for, mimic to some extent his punk rock reality of going to shows to
watch The Clash and his longtime friend Joe Strummer, drinking multiple pints
of alcohol, working a trash job for a little bit of cash and using his drunken
charm towards achieving a sexual romp.

When Gange or the band is not on the screen, events that marked that period
randomly arrive. A clash between riot police and racist protestors pops up, but
Gange is nowhere to be found in order to provide dramatic impact. Instead, it
remains interesting for its own sake. Watching as the police get to business and
set up in formation in the middle of the street as they are eventually met
by a rock throwing mob reminds me of how Great Britain fought the
Revolutionary War, rows of soldiers being proper and orderly amidst the carnage.

If I was reading a book such unrelated events would eventually be tied together. Here,
they are linked in such a subtle manner that only its original audience
during the original theatrical release in 1980 understood the connections
between The Clash and social upheaval.

Another element of England, circa 1978, finds Scotland Yard keeping a close
eye on several Black men via a high tech operation consisting of men on the
street as well as perched in a room with film and photo equipment. The
characters have zero connection to the drama and actors in the rest of the film. They’re
significant only as an example of what happened during those times. While it’s frustrating on a cinematic level, it does have resonance in a 21st century
world where more of our everyday moves are being watched and the possibility of
being picked up off the street and interrogated until we admit any
wrong doing is very real.

So, as a Clash fan, you’ll love the band’s performances. And for those, like
myself, who missed them during their brief time, it’s the closest we’re
going to get to such excitement. Essentially playing themselves, the band
members’ acting is natural and passable to move the scene along. But, as I said
earlier, the best way to get full satisfaction from Rude Boy is to treat
its Bonus Material as requisite pre-screening research. Prepared, you’re all ready
to enjoy this hybrid of cinema, concert, quasi-documentary.

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