As gene pitney rips through his ’60s-era “Town Without Pity” on the soundtrack, the camera glides past a ’90s version of hell: the malls, tract houses and fast-food franchises of the suburbs. Welcome to the fictional town of Burnfield, U.S.A., where Massachusettsborn Eric Bogosian set his 1994 play about twentysomething tigers in a cage. The fierce and funny film version has been directed by Texan Richard Linklater (Slacker, Dazed and Confused, Before Sunrise) with rare grace and compassion.
The characters hang in the parking lot outside an all-night convenience store. College boy Jeff (a very fine Giovanni Ribissi) fancies himself the brain of the group. Buff (Steve Zahn) is the party boy. Tim (a spiky Nicky Katt), who cut off the tip of his finger to get out of the Air Force, now spends his time hassling the Pakistani couple who run the convenience store.
On this night, Jeff’s performanceartist girlfriend, Sooze (Amie Carey invests her with the right blend of acid and honey), shows up with Bee-Bee (Dina Spybey), a nurse’s aid who’s just out of rehab, to meet Pony (Jayce Bartok), a high-school pal who is now a rock star and eager to show off his limo and babe publicist, Erica (a scrappy Parker Posey).
Pony’s visit escalates the talk from good-natured humor to violent hostility and intimations of murder. SubUrbia boasts a dynamite cast, with Zahn a standout as the live wire. Bogosian, who was 20 in the ’70s, and Linklater, who turned that corner in the ’80s, forge a bond with their ’90s counterparts that captures the timeless roar of youthful rebellion. Hotblooded, haunting and blisteringly comic, SubUrbia is a fireball.