run time: 90 mins
considered: Comedy, Drama, Music
director: Allan Moyle
starring: Anthony LaPaglia, Maxwell Caulfield, Debi Mazar, Rory Cochrane, Johnny Whitworth, Robin Tunney, Renee Zellweger, Ethan Embry, Coyote Shivers, Brendan Sexton III, Liv Tyler, James Willis Ben Bode, Gary Bolen
movie summary: Back in the day before Napster and iTunes you could find a record store on every corner across the globe. Most teenagers wanted to work at a record store because it looked like the greatest job ever. In 1995 Hollywood gave the us a glimpse at how crazy life can be working at one of the busiest record stores in the New York City area, Empire Records.
Lucas (Rory Cochrane) is Empire Record’s night manager who discovers plans inside his boss’ desk that show the store is about to be sold to the big chain store corporation Music Town. In a last-ditch effort to “Save the Empire” Lucas travels to Atlantic City to gamble away the nightly profits with the hope of raising enough money to prevent the store from being sold. When his luck and money run out Lucas returns to the store early in the morning to find A.J. (Johnny Whitworth) and Mark (Ethan Embry) just opening up. No one knows for sure what happen except the fact Lucas messed up bad and when the store manager Joe (Anthony LaPaglia) comes in all hell is going to break loose.
On the other side of town Gina (Renee Zellweger) picks up her best friend Cory (Liv Tyler) and the two travel into work for Rex Manning day. Rex (Maxwell Caulfield) is a hot-shot singer who uses his good looks to sell his albums and win the ladies over. Cory vows to lose her virginity to Rex and asks Gina for tips on how to seduce him. When the girls get to work Joe is busy trying to figure out where the money went. When he doesn’t come up with answers he throws Lucas around his office to ease his frustrations, when that doesn’t provide enough satisfaction he bangs on the drums to AC/DC’s If You Want Blood which Gina puts on the intercom and sends the store and it’s employees into a party frenzy.
Rex shows up with his aide while other employees Deb (Robin Tunney) and Barko (Coyote Shivers) come in for their afternoon shifts. The store is abuzz when Rex takes the floor but his cocky attitude doesn’t win over any of the staff at Empire. Lucas is stuck to the couch in the back room when he spots a shoplifter named Warren (Brendan Sexton III) stealing CDs. Lucas leaves the couch but takes a cushion with him to go chase Warren around the store before catching him and calling the cops. Cory prepares a lunch and sexy striptease for Rex, but when their romantic date goes bad, Gina swoops in to seal the deal and sleep with the superstar. Deb has come to work with bandages on her wrists, Joe and Barko try to figure out why she wants to harm herself but don’t get anywhere. Cory wants to go home sick only to catch Gina and Rex in the act, she snaps on Gina and everyone gets into a huge fight that results in AJ getting punched in the face and Rex kicked out of the store.
Just as the drama unfolds in the back, Warren returns with a gun to shoot up the place. He vows revenge for being arrested earlier but when he gets apprehended by Deb, who has no fear of dying, he says he just wants to work at a record store and is sorry for acting so stupid. If the day wasn’t eventful enough, the store’s owner Mitchell Beck (Ben Bode) shows up demanding the deposit from the previous night only to find out it has gone missing. Joe calls everyone in the back to hand out Music Town flyers and t-shirts to explain that Lucas’ thoughtful gambling mistake cost him a chance to make Mitch an offer to keep the store. Now he has no money or credit left to his name so tells everyone to get used to working for the strict no fun Music Town because Empire Records is done.
Mark, who is by far one of the craziest employees in the store, goes out to the news crew that was on scene for Warren’s arrest to proclaim that there will be an epic party to “Save the Empire.” Everyone in the back room turns on the TV to see Mark acting overly excited about a party that hasn’t even been planned but is only a couple of hours away. The gang do everything they can to promote the party and raise enough money to save the store. They sell everything from music, artwork, buttons, and beer. Barko’s band set up on the front mezzanine to play for the crowd while Gina sings back up vocals. People young and old flock to the store and neighbourhood to have the night of their lives.
my thoughts: Empire Records was a bomb at the box office and most critics hated this movie for all the obvious reasons, it’s a predictable story with stereotype characters. Little did anyone know in the years to follow its theatrical release Empire Records would go on to be a cult classic. Every time I answer the phone at work I just want to say “Empire Records open til midnight” because it sounds so funny and would just be awesome. I’m sure it would confuse the person on the other end but maybe one day someone would understand this movie reference. There is another epic saying that Lucas and the gang repeat over and over and that is “damn the man.” Unlike open to midnight, damn the man can be applied to many situations in everyday life, so next time you are feeling down about work or something just say “damn the man” and you should cheer up.
It’s tough to get into every single cast member and describe what they bring to the story when they are all fantastic. This movie was a break out performance for Renee Zellweger, Liv Tyler, and Robin Tunney. Anthony LaPaglia was able to use Empire Records as a stepping stone towards a solid career as an actor while Rory Cochrane, Ethan Embry, and Johnny Whitworth all went on to land significant roles through out the years. No matter what roles any of these actors/actresses take, fans of Empire Records will always remember them as the lovable characters from their favourite record store.
The story about a crazy record store is more popular today then it was ever was back in the day despite it’s over the top antics and characters. Everyone can figure out how this group of misfits will put their differences aside and band together to save their beloved work place, but not everyone will appreciate what these people have done to be accepted into this tight-knit family. On top of the place setting and great acting, the soundtrack to Empire Records features an amazing musical selection from the 90’s that will please anyone who grew up during those days.
Empire Records is a must watch for so many reasons that one can not simply list in a movie review. Do yourself a favor and ask one of your friends to borrow it, we both know someone you know owns it, then sit back and have a few laughs wishing you were cool enough to work at the Empire.
my star rating: 9 out 10
imdb.com: 6.7 out 10
rottentomatoes.com: 24% out 100%