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Total Count: 39


Audience Score

User Ratings: 5,521
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Movie Info

The Beatles' early days as a struggling bar band are depicted in this fact-based drama, which tells the little-known story of original member Stuart Sutcliffe (Stephen Dorff). A close friend of John Lennon, Sutcliffe acts as the band's original bassist, accompanying them on their early gigs in Liverpool and Hamburg, Germany. The friendship becomes strained, however, when Sutcliffe falls in love with a German art student and starts to question his commitment to the band. With Sutcliffe's story taking center stage, the stories of the more famous Beatles largely fade into the background. The exception is John Lennon, thanks to a fierce performance by Ian Hart, who had previously portrayed the musician in the more intimate and provocative The Hours and the Times. While Backbeat does provide a new perspective on the band's beginning, and numerous opportunities for a group of modern rock musicians to recreate the band's energetic early performances, it never makes Sutcliffe's story seem more than a footnote to musical history.


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Critic Reviews for Backbeat

All Critics (39) | Top Critics (11)

  • Get back, get back to where you once belonged, you want to shout. But the movie is stuck in the wrong groove.

    Feb 13, 2018 | Full Review…

    David Ansen

    Top Critic
  • There's nothing very profound here, but we do at least get a nice handling of period and milieu, and pretty good performances of the songs.

    Sep 10, 2007 | Full Review…
  • What pulls you over the bum spots is the electrifying immediacy.

    Sep 10, 2007
  • The early, pre-fame days of the Beatles are a great subject for a film, but the potential has been only partly realized in Backbeat.

    Sep 10, 2007

    Todd McCarthy

    Top Critic
  • The music is loud and raw, but nevertheless evokes the excitement it generated.

    Jan 26, 2006 | Full Review…

    Geoff Andrew

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • Backbeat, which for all its pretensions can often be impressively canny and affectionate about its subject, is helped enormously by newly recorded versions of Beatle records.

    May 20, 2003 | Rating: 3/5

Audience Reviews for Backbeat

  • Jun 26, 2013
    "And after all this time to find we're just like all the rest, stranded in the park and forced to confess to hiding on the backbeats, hiding on the backbeats!" Yeah, I know that this film is kind of about The Beatles, but I can't help but think about two other musical things when looking at this film's title, and I reckon I'm sticking with Bruce Springsteen (Yes, Springsteen's singing "Hiding on the backstreets" exactly eighteen times in that awesome, three-and-a-half-hour-long "Live in New York" video is still not as monotonous as the finale to "Hey Jude"), because I'd rather not think about the Backstreet Boys, even though, around the time featured in this film, The Beatles were kind of like a boy band with talent... and Ringo Starr. No, I guess Starr is alright, but what I'm getting at is that you rockers may be irritated about my calling The Beatles something of a boy band, but don't tell me that if you were back in the early '60s you wouldn't at least be a little annoyed by all of the girls' screaming and crying over these pretty English boys' latest pop song about young love and whatnot. Hey, apparently they were the punks of their day, as some record producer came out and said, which is unfortunate, because that jerk inspired the makers of this film to go out and put together the ultimate '90s punk/alternative rock supergroup to record The Beatles covers for this soundtrack. Shoot, maybe I shouldn't be complaining too much, because all the supergroup did was early '60s-esque rock covers that are actually pretty good, yet I just can't help but get nervous beyond belief when hearing about a band that features Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum and Greg Dulli of the Afghan Whigs on vocals, Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth and Don Fleming of Gumball on guitars, Mike Mills of R.E.M. on bass and Dave Grohl of Nirvana and Foo Fighters on drums. Jeez, speaking of screaming and crying in excitement over some band, I bet this supergroup, the Beat-You-Over-the-Headles, blew the minds of alternative rock fans of the '90s, or at least it would have if these guys weren't covering old, kind of cheesy and, well, actually listenable songs. Hey, whether you like this film's soundtrack or not, you'd be pressed to deny that this film is a decent one, and yet, just because the ultimate '90s punk rock supergroup is about as restrained as it's going to be, that doesn't mean that you shouldn't worry about certain things. Seeing as how we're dealing with a dramatic British biopic, I feared quite a bit of dryness, yet I am relieved to find that bland spells are limited, though not so thrilled to see that they nevertheless still stand, being by no means in great supply, or with all that much dullness, but with a disengaging atmospheric coldness that really slows down momentum, at least enough for you to pay attention to there actually not being that much momentum in the first place. Atmospheric pacing certainly has its limp spells, and when it comes to structural pacing, there are even more slow spells, backed by excess material and filler that leave the film to wander along until it finally collapses into repetition that drag out the final product, which still only comes out at about 100 minutes, partially because it tightens up plenty of the places that count. The film is well-rounded enough on paper, and well-told and acted enough, to earn quite a bit of your investment, so much so that the final product comes close to rewarding, yet general goodness ultimately slips through this effort's fingers, largely because exposition feels more undercooked than it should be, barely giving you an adequate degree of immediate background information right away, then proceeding to thin out gradual development for the sake of tone building that would actually be more firmly reinforced if characterization had more meat. Again, there is enough meat to the developmental depths of this drama for you to be reasonably compelled, but the underdevelopment, backed by slow spells and repetitiously dragged out moments in filler, places the promising project upon a foundation that is as shaky as it is familiar. This early story of The Beatles is a unique one that too many people forget about, so, of course, the film has the potential to be pretty refreshing, but in the end, the story finds itself structured in a fashion that is all too easy to recognize, being driven by tropes that grow clearer and clearer as the story unravels, until even those who aren't as aware as they probably should be of this forgotten tale end up facing too much predictability. The basic story concept is strong enough for the task of shaking the final product into underwhelmingness to seem like a challenging one, but the conventionalism and predictability really shake the defenses and leave the film at a very real risk of losing the full reward value that does, in fact, not make it, for although the final product comes close to going beyond mere decency, the pacing problems and limited depth to characterization are bound to prove too disengaging for this film's potential to be achieved. That being said, like I stated earlier, the film comes close to rewarding, not quite making it, but persevering enough to compel just fine, or at least deliver on tunes that, I must admit, aren't too shabby. As you can imagine, I had my reservations about the supergroup that was assembled to interpret The Beatles' almost punkish covers of rock classics in the early '60s, and sure enough, there are indeed occasions in which the star-studded '90s alternative rockers who compose the one-off band get a bit carried over the top, sometimes to the point where you can tell that we're simply dealing with contemporaneous "artists" merely pretending as though they're in the early '60s, but on the whole, I was pleasantly surprised with the Bang-You-Over-the-Headles, whose efforts are by no means upstanding, but do a generally decent job of capturing that good old-fashioned rock 'n' roll flavor in a fairly entertaining fashion. There is obviously not much too these ostensibly faithful tributes to The Beatles' less musically focused early years, but the film hits more than I feared on a musical level, and when it comes to the heart of the telling of this intriguing forgotten chapter in the story of The Beatles, compliments must also be paid. Again, the predictability within the telling of this story shakes conceptual engagement value to the point of making the final product very vulnerable to the other storytelling mishaps that end up driving it into underwhelmingness, but through all of the familiarity within the more extensive areas in story building, you can find a very interesting story concept, with depths, layers and potential that go betrayed by an aspect that has just as great of a tendency to do its concept justice. Iain Softley's and Stephen Ward's script does about as much as anything in holding the film back as rewarding, but at the same time, when the script hits, it helps in reinforcing the final product as borderline strong with such little things as sharp dialogue (If you can here it through all of the annoyingly thick, if convincing accent), as well as such more significant touches as areas in characterization that are, in fact, well-rounded, or at least appear to be when complimented by the inspired acting. If nothing else is consistent about this film, it's pretty good, maybe even very good acting, with the portrayers of The Beatles - both forgotten and notorious as musical groundbreakers - being particularly impressive in their transforming into the icons, while Ian Hart all but steals the show with his committed portrayal of an unpredictably deep, yet angry young John Lennon (No wonder the man made for such an obnoxious hippie, he was working hard to compensate for his being such a huge jerk in his youth), and leading man Stephen Dorff carries the film with not just a sharp British accent, but a charismatic and sometimes dramatically heartfelt portrayal of Stuart Sutcliffe, the most tragic lost Beatle. The performances aren't outstanding, but they are more effective than expected, being not only convincing, but with a certain compelling heart that can sometimes also be found within Iain Softley's direction, whose heights in effectiveness give you compelling glimpses at what could have been. Sure, Softley's shortcomings, both as director and as co-writer, are too potent to deny, driving the final product into underwhelmingness, but not so deeply that the inspiration within Softley's efforts can be ignored, joining an intriguing story and strong performances in keeping you reasonably compelled, if longing for a more rewarding product. When the beat fades out, the film is left too beaten by bland spells, repetitiously dragged out spells, expository shortcomings and considerably formulaic storytelling in slowing down momentum too much for the final product to escape the underwhelmingness that is still admittedly comes close to overcoming, thanks to the decent soundtrack, intriguing story concept, strong acting and heights in inspired writing and direction that make "Backbeat" a consistently enjoyable, sometimes moving look at the early days of The Beatles, and story of one of the legendary band's most forgotten and tragic figures. 2.75/5 - Decent
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Dec 12, 2010
    This is an admittedly highly fictionalized version of the Beatles early days in Hamburg, but that is not the central theme of the movie. It's really about a love triangle between two best friends, and the woman they both are drawn to. There are a few great characters brought to life by a few very good performances by the actors portraying them, and that is what really drew me in. That said, any Beatles fan will also dig the stylized look at their early days. You can't really take it as fact, but you can have a hell of a lot of fun imagining that this is sort of the way it might have been.
    Cynthia S Super Reviewer
  • Apr 27, 2009
    This is an OK movie. I suspect it had difficulty deciding whether it was made as a documentary about the Beatles early years, or a story about the unfortunate life of Stuart Sutcliffe.
    Red L Super Reviewer
  • Aug 26, 2007
    The story of the Beatles while they were touring through Hamburg mainly doing covers prior to their superstardom. This version of the tale centres on Stu Sutcliffe, the 5th beatle and overall I found this picture to be rather forgettable. I didn't care an iota for any of these characters. The Beatles deserve better.
    John B Super Reviewer

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