What We Do Is Secret follows the struggles and corrupt success of punk icon Darby Crash (Shane West) and his band The Germs, from the gathering of band members to the downfall of Crash and his addiction to drugs.
The music is loud and the band is destructive. One band member even jokes about their name being The Germs simply because the music is “so bad it makes everyone sick”. Relying on their lack of talent to reach fame, The Germs were distinguished by the remarkable way the band and its ingenious lead singer reach fame (not by success, but by failure). They redefined punk music with their long shot path to fame. Banned from nearly every club in L.A. and known as a band that couldn’t get on stage without starting a riot, this is the exact type of behavior that gained them a cult following.
What We Do Is Secret covers the band’s take on certain issues and discussions about groupies, band members, and problems with drummers. These interesting subjects made it so that, even though I hated the music, I was eager to hear the thoughts that this one-of-a-kind band had to say. A sort of appreciation and dignity goes toward the band’s audacious way of reaching fame with failure and first-time writer/director Roger Grossman’s ability to capture the essence needed to bring this punk legend to life. It’s a punk opera of great acting, bad music, and stylish period designs.
The film will be remembered primarily for West’s powerhouse performance, which is a good thing considering this will be the center of attention instead of the routine guideline behind it all. The storyline is pretty much standard cliché, chronicling the musician’s rise to fame, reaching it, and then the fall. It’s strikingly familiar to last year’s Control, only more energetic and memorable.
Compelling, vibrantly executed, and well-acted, What We Do Is Secret exceeds expectations by the handful. The music might be bad, but there’s no denying that the film is told and done exceptionally well. While most of the performances (Gonzalez and Phillips in particular) are up to par, it’s West who steals the show with his dedicated, if somewhat restrained, performance. It’s just enough to arouse the audience and keep a sturdy flow of interest throughout. Astonishingly, What We Do Is Secret verifies that painted faces, mohawks, mosh pits, and a glimpse into the punk era is an interesting spread of ingredients that work in a uniquely compelling fashion. And if that wild mixture isn’t enough to interest you, the insane concerts should pump adrenaline into your lifeless veins.
The DVD’s special features (which really aren’t anything I would call “special”) include filmmaker and actor commentary featuring Roger Grossman and Shane West, a digital copy of the film, and a theatrical trailer. Available on DVD November 4th. 3.5/5 stars