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24 Hour Party People

The true story of maverick Manchester, England-based TV personality Tony Wilson, who by chance stumbled upon an unknown band called the Sex Pistols in the mid-'70s and went on to become a key but unsavvy promoter of punk rock via his club and record label.


Cambridge-educated Tony Wilson is a young but established TV journalist in Manchester who is fed up with his silly assignments, be they hang-gliding adventures or an interview with a midget who cares for elephants. When one evening he catches an unknown band called the Sex Pistols at a poorly attended show, he becomes a believer in what is the new and rebellious punk movement. Taking a chance, he opens a club to give new punk bands exposure, becoming a major promoter of the punk movement. But, hardly the exemplary capitalist, he's motivated by gut feelings and passion and his belief in Manchester as the epicenter of new music. Wilson does discover several bands that go on to varying degrees of success and notoriety, including Joy Division/New Order and the Happy Mondays, but punk values and the lifestyle take their toll. There are the premature deaths, marital breakups, including Wilson's first marriage, and drug lords who wield too much influence in Wilson's club. His own loosey-goosey ways with his record business and artist contracts leads to his label's demise. Through it all Wilson keeps his day job as TV personality and never lets go his allegiance to his beloved Manchester flag.


Thanks to 24 Hour Party People, Steve Coogan as Tony Wilson may well become a star in Yank country. Known to TV audiences in the U.K., Wilson, with a background in comedy, is a brilliant and compelling presence as the film's drolly ironic and obviously learned hero. All supporting roles here are superb, including Andy Serkis as doomed and messed up producer Martin Hannett, Rob Brydon as Ryan Letts, and Shirley Henderson as Wilson's first wife, Shirley.


Michael Winterbottom, who so brilliantly directed Welcome to Sarajevo but disappointed with The Claim, again triumphs here. Employing an arsenal of special effects and using DV, Winterbottom perfectly captures an era, a rock movement, a place, and the authentic spirit of a hugely intelligent and appealing maverick entrepreneur whose field of vision extended well above the bottom line.

Bottom Line

24 Hour Party People is a pounding, convincing, original work that thoroughly conveys the power, energy, and appeal of the punk movement. This exhilarating film should set the example for rock movies to come.