If you think Kiefer Sutherland busts his hump trying to save the world from terrorists on 24 — after five pulse-pounding seasons, he and the show finally won well-deserved Emmys last month — wait till you see him try to sell the world on Rocco DeLuca and the Burden, a new band he’s hot on, in I Trust You to Kill Me, a documentary that is also the title of the group’s first CD.
Are you smelling a hustle here? I thought so at first, since the band is signed to Ironworks Music, the indie label run by Sutherland and his friend, musician-producer Jude Cole. But Manu Boyer’s film is hunting bigger game. The band, with DeLuca on guitar and vocals, Dave Beste on bass, Ryan Caman on drums and Greg Velasquez on percussion, is front and center. The echoes of Neil Young, Robert Plant, Jeff Buckley and Pearl Jam blend into something unique, especially when performed live. Using the Dobro steel guitar to cut deep on tracks such as “Soul,” “Dope” and the title song, the group packs the heat and rocks aggression to work its way into your head and stay there.
What gives this spellbinder a similar raw power is the way Boyer reveals the parallels between DeLuca and Sutherland. Both are sons of big guns — Kiefer’s father is actor Donald Sutherland, Rocco’s dad was Bo Diddley’s touring guitarist — who were rarely home. Both are guitar freaks. Both are given to mood swings. At first, it’s funny watching Sutherland play road manager as the band tours small clubs in London, Dublin, Berlin and Reykjavik, Iceland. He lacks the discipline for the job, at one point taking out his anger by dive-bombing a hotel Christmas tree. Where he excels is in the sell. He’ll do interviews, pose for photos, even hawk tickets on the streets to put the band in people’s faces.
At its core, I Trust You to Kill Me is an agonizing look at the exhilaration of making good music and the killing frustration of finding and not finding audiences who will hear it, get it and take it to heart. DeLuca sings, “I want your soul/Give it to me now” in a voice that’s meant to bruise. That it does. Ditto the movie.