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Movie Review

The Runaways also known as “Neon Angels”

MPAA Rating: R for language, drug use and sexual content—all involving teens.

Reviewed by: Thaisha Geiger

Extremely Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Music Biography Drama
1 hr. 49 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
March 19, 2010 (limited)
April 9, 2010 (wider)
DVD: July 20, 2010
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Featuring: Kristen Stewart—“Twilight” (Joan Jett), Dakota Fanning (Cherie Currie), Michael Shannon (Kim Fowley), Stella Maeve (Sandy West), Scout Taylor-Compton (Lita Ford), Alia Shawkat (Robin), Danielle Riley Keough (Marie Currie), Johnny Lewis (Scottie), Tatum O'Neal (Cherie’s Mom), Brett Cullen (Cherie’s Dad), Hannah Marks (Tammy), Jill Andre (Aunt Evie), Pamela Dunlap (Aunt Evie), Ray Porter (Band Member), Kiaya Snow (Cashier), Allie Grant (Club Girl), Brendan Sexton III (Derek), Shammy Dee (DJ), Daniel D. Lee (Fobby Paparazzo), more »
Director: Floria Sigismondi
Producer: River Road Entertainment, Linson Entertainment, Road Rebel, Runaway Productions, David Grace, Joan Jett, Kenny Laguna, Art Linson, John Linson, William Pohlad, Jonathan Sanford, Sabrina Sipantzi, Brian Young
Distributor: Apparition

“It’s 1975 and they’re about to explode.”

“The Runaways” is a partially fictionalized biopic of the 1970s all-girl group of the same name. The group is perhaps best known for their hit “Cherry Bomb” and also for paving the way for more all-girl groups to find success in the male-dominated world of rock 'n roll.

Based on the lead singer’s memoir, the story of Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning) takes the forefront. She was only 15 when producer Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon) recruited her to become the lead singer of The Runaways. Some glimpses of her home life are provided in the way of her twin sister and drunken father. While arguably the best known former member is Joan Jett (Kristen Stewart) no back-story is ever provided of Jett or even Lita Ford. The remaining band mates are almost invisible in the storytelling, one even being completely invented.

The film’s main objective is to show the band’s creation, brief run, and demise. With this ambition, it lacks dialogue and character development. Most of the dialogue is confined to the vulgarity the teen girls succumbed to in order to be shaped into Fowley’s vision of a “successful” band. While the group was together for five years, those years are blurred together in the film, appearing only as a few gigs and a trip to Japan. The movie takes the familiar biographical road of drug binges, tour dates, strained family ties, and clashing egos. While extremely well acted, time should have been taken to create well-rounded characters and a stronger ending where their emergence from their afflictions is better demonstrated. Perhaps this would have helped the film not have such a bitter aftertaste.

The offensive content in this film is extremely high and disturbing, especially the sexual content. There’s a lengthy scene of one of the band members trying to masturbate while looking at photos of nude men. When that doesn’t work, Jett recommends that she think of different people, such as Farrah Fawcett. There are several lesbian kisses. After sharing a kiss, there’s a montage of scenes, implying a sexual encounter between Currie and Jett. There are two topless scenes. There’s a graphic sex scene between Fowley and an unknown woman. While having sex with her, he speaks with Jett on the phone. There are also multiple crotch grabs while making crude comments. In the beginning of the film, Currie tells her sister’s boyfriend that her sister is not wearing any panties; he immediately smiles and puts his hand between her legs. Dakota Fanning is shown in lingerie and poses in just panties and a halter top for a photo shoot. The camera shots would sometimes linger on different parts of Fanning’s body in the lingerie. Kristen Stewart is, also, shown in just her underwear and t-shirt.

In addition, there are also several scenes of drunkenness, snorting up cocaine and smashed-up pills. As an act of revenge, Joan Jett pulls her pants down and urinates on another band’s guitars. Currie flips off her high-school classmates when they boo her during a talent show. In the beginning of the film, Currie starts her period and then pulls down her underwear to place toilet paper on it.

The majority of the dialogue is pervasively coarse and saturated with profanity. There are multiple uses of the words c*ck and p***y. Fowley uses these obscene words when instructing the girls on how to sell themselves on stage. There are over 75 uses of profanity, including at least 45 “f” words.

A pivotal moment in the film is during Cherie Currie’s audition. Understandably excited, she willingly sings the words of the future hit “Cherry Bomb,” until she reaches the first part of the sexually derogatory lyrics. When she refuses to sing the obscene words, Fowley intimidates her by opening the trailer door, telling her to leave. Joan Jett attempts to comfort Currie by stating it’s “just a song.” And with the acceptance of those few lines, Currie begins her destructive life with The Runaways. In James Chapter 3, he writes just how lethal and life-altering the tongue can be, despite its size. In verse 5-6, James writes:

“Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue is also a fire.”

I strongly advise Christians to completely avoid “The Runaways.” The immoral content is constant and heavy throughout the film’s entire run, and it grieved my Spirit. While one might argue the point that this movie accurately reflects the rock 'n roll era when drugs and sex were heavily present, I’d have to concur, but we should not subject ourselves to viewing this immorality, especially in the absence of strong triumph. By the end credits, we get a few meager lines and audio samples of Jett’s latter success and Currie’s win over drug addiction and her helping other teens. While this is very commendable, the film should have focused more on these successful aftermaths. However, the movie predominately showed how a group of young, impressionable girls from broken homes were pushed into a sinful world and sadly reaped what was sown.

Violence: Mild / Profanity: Extreme / Sex/Nudity: Extreme

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Viewer CommentsSend your comments


Positive—I watched this movie yesterday, and where I agree with you that the rest of the band was under represented, because of issues with the members of the band, I must disagree with you saying christians should avoid this movie. At worst, it’s a glimpse in time when these things happened, and to say they didn’t, or just gloss over them would be irresponsible to the story. Especially in the light of the afore mentioned absence of the entire bands character arcs. At best it’s a good teaching aid. How not to be a parent. What the traps are in life, and how to avoid or, at least, mitigate them.

I am a christian, and I believe people like you should just leave us to choose what we will, after all we have freedom of choice right. stop telling us what we should and shouldn’t watch, or who we should boycott. If you are an instructor of what the bible means to you and your followers, be careful you’re being given a lot of power to influence peoples lives, and a lot of what I’ve seen lately in this country, is a gross misuse of that power.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Chris, age 39 (USA)
Neutral—I am a Christian and saw this movie last week for the first time, being a fan of hard rock/heavy metal music from the 70s. While I appreciate the reviewer’s efforts in explaining the movie, I strongly disagree with the conclusion that Christians should avoid this movie. The things portrayed in the movie are what happens in everyday life, around us, and we cannot stick our heads in the sand and pretend these things don’t exist. If a Christian is convicted by the Holy Spirit to not view this movie, then by all means, don’t.

Every Christian doesn’t have the same convictions over minor issues, such as what types of movies, to see, drinking, types of music to listen to, etc. Each of us are are at different levels of maturity in our walk with Christ. Some might be more offended over a movie that depicts drugs, sex and debauchery, while other Christians might not be offended. I myself view this as what it is: the telling of the true story of an all girl teenage rock band in the 1970s and the things they had to put up with, as well as what the rock and roll lifestyle did to these young girls.

It could have been more detailed, and yes there could have been more character developement, and, unfortunately, this movie did not deliver in those areas. I highly recommend the documentary “Edgeplay: A Movie About The Runaways” for a more detailed look at the band’s history. This movie was filmed and directed by one of the drummers for The Runaways, Vicki Blue. With all that said, I liked this movie. On a scale of 5 stars, I’d give it 3 stars.
My Ratings: Moral rating: none / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Dedra, age 41 (USA)