Generally unfavorable reviews - based on 17 Critics What's this?

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Mixed or average reviews- based on 11 Ratings

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  • Starring: , , , ,
  • Summary: CBGB follows the story of Hilly Kristal's New York club from its conceit as a venue for Country, Bluegrass and Blues (CBGB) to what it ultimately became: the birthplace of underground rock 'n roll and punk. When Kristal had difficulty booking country bands in his club on the Bowery he opened his doors to other kinds of rock music. Kristal had one demand of the acts he booked; they could only play original music. No top 40's, no covers. It was the credo he lived by, support the artist at whatever the cost. Hilly Kristal ironically became known as the godfather of punk giving a chance to such bands as Blondie, Television, Ramones, Talking Heads, Dead Boys and The Police. Expand
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 1 out of 17
  2. Negative: 11 out of 17
  1. Reviewed by: Andrew O'Hehir
    Oct 10, 2013
    CBGB has more of the original prankish punk spirit than it even recognizes.
  2. Reviewed by: John DeFore
    Oct 11, 2013
    Alan Rickman's lead performance highlights a sincere but insubstantial rock pic.
  3. Reviewed by: Mike D'Angelo
    Oct 9, 2013
    Punk may not be dead, but this picture is D.O.A.
  4. Reviewed by: Robert Abele
    Oct 3, 2013
    In its stylistically flailing stab at authenticity, CBGB ends up merely a mess of caricatures.
  5. Reviewed by: Farran Smith Nehme
    Oct 10, 2013
    The most distressing bad choice in CBGB, a movie entirely composed from them, is that those brilliant songs are repurposed studio recordings.
  6. Reviewed by: Tomas Hachard
    Oct 8, 2013
    As the film moves from one musical performance to another, the result increasingly feels like a series of celebrity impersonations set to a best-of-punk compilation album.
  7. Reviewed by: Eric Hynes
    Oct 8, 2013
    The film strives to cinematically reanimate that shabby underground lair; instead, it proves to be the most bastardized souvenir bauble of all.

See all 17 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 2 out of 4
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 4
  3. Negative: 2 out of 4
  1. Oct 19, 2013
    I truly loved this movie!! It is a love story to the man, Hilly Kristal, the one who started a movement in music. He was a hero, rough around the edges, like the film, but I think that was the point the filmmakers were making. The casting was absolutely super as well: Malin Akerman as Debbie Harry (Amazing!); Rupert Grint as punk rocker, Cheetah Chrome (Inspired!); Ashley Greene, the best performance of her career; Freddy Rodriguez was completely unrecognizable (Very very good!); Justin Bartha as punk rocker, Stiv Bators (F'ck'n awesome!); Donal Logue is always one of my favorite (Great!). The bands were amazing as well, David Bryne and Sting and Television were spot on!! Run, don't walk to see this film... its fun, its funny and its a great story about the birth of Punk Rock on the Bowery. Don't listen to the critics they are DEAD WRONG!! Expand
  2. Oct 25, 2013
    I was entertained from start to finish by this high energy movie. The birth of punk music provides the backdrop for the story of Hilly Kristal who has a vision for a club where musicians play original music. He starts out a ne'er do well and never really loses his messy, gritty persona while building CBGB. Alan Rickman is outstanding as are many of the familiar faces, and the unknown actors playing the rockers are spot on. Expand
  3. Oct 5, 2013
    This review contains spoilers. Obviously a love letter, but a haphazard, disjointed one at best. Scene after scene and character after character seemed to be included only because they must have been somehow important, but why they were important is never really explained. It seems more like an anthology of re-enactments of 2nd hand stories, cleaned up and recycled into an TV after-school special (and probably had the same budget, judging by the cheap Halloween wigs that prove to be incredibly distracting in their awfulness). This is especially notable in a scene where, apropos of nothing, the guy from The Big Bang Theory offers a blowie to a guy we're supposed to believe is Iggy Pop...for some reason. I assume it was supposed to be some of the comedy we were promised, but, forced in as it was, it was just confusing.

    There are, inexplicably, two different opening scenes. Both are by-the-book cliches, and neither adds a single thing to the plot, showing us a baby Hilly Kristal running to the neighbors for some reason, and the ham-handed condensed version of the founding of Punk magazine, the inclusion of which exists solely to introduce some sort of narrator who spells out the "message" of the movie in talking points that sound like a book report shoehorned into unnatural dialogue.

    As likable as Alan Rickman is as Hilly, it's worth noting that he is the only real villain in the story as well. What little conflict and plot happens on screen centers around him being his own worst enemy- turning down advice and help at every turn, again, without offering an explanation or providing any context whatsoever for why he makes such bad decisions. There's no insight into who Hilly was as a person, just someone going through the motions like they're following a list.

    It's hard to tell who the audience for this film is. If you're not already familiar with the story, you won't come out really knowing anything of value about this pivotal point in music history. All you'll know is that some guy who was bad at business had a club the Ramones played at, and apparently that's important. If you're already a fan, you'll find the story lacking detail and richness, and the dumbed down spoon-feeding of punk history off-putting and exceedingly mild. The way the rock icons are portrayed is cartoonish, feeling more like an excuse for a costume party than any serious attempt at portraying reality.

    And don't even get me started on the obvious continuity errors sprinkled liberally throughout. The whole thing was like amateur hour, except that it felt more like 4 or 5 hours.
  4. May 16, 2014
    Oh my gosh! Just dreadful. CBGB is so bad it doesn't even deserve an OMG. It feels like it was made by a 12 year old that never left the suburbs during the 80s but dreamed about going to NYC and CBGBs. One after another some look alike actor comes out and lipsyncs a song. Then it ends. Expand