In today's political climate, it's easy to go back to an era when U.S. kids were mad as hell and not taking it anymore. But it's not so easy to recall a time when rock music reflected their frustration like a fist-smashed mirror.
The bands in this documentary about the punk underground in the Reaganomical early '80s -- including Minor Threat, Black Flag, Circle Jerks and the Dead Kennedys -- look like monsters compared with the cuddly, fluffed punks now on MTV2. These bands were mean, scary and sometimes even violent. Most were hyperactive but short-lived; their quick-burning existence adds to the film's fascination.
Like most music docs, this grab-bag of new interviews and old music footage is essentially for fans, and many could quibble about what is or isn't included. There's too much on the forgettable Boston scene, and way too little from Middle America. Blink and you'll miss Hüsker Dü, Die Kreuzen or the Big Boys. But the L.A. and D.C. footage is great, and a good case is made for Bad Brains as the best and brightest of the bunch. "Hardcore" leaves little doubt that this truly was one of the wildest eras in rock.