FILM REVIEW: The Icarus Line Must Die


A mock/rock-umentary, if you will, THE ICARUS LINE MUST DIE is the semi-autobiographical story of the film’s star, co-writer, and real-life character-turned-actor, Joe Cardemone. Cardemone, (formerly of the band, The Icarus Line and now the man behind Holy War) a well-known and rather infamous figure, was once a fast-rising legend on tht Los Angeles music scene depicted in the film.


In opening scene – an interview between our lead and an on-air radio host – Director (and co-Writer) Michael Grodner artfully allows us a good amount of backstory – with a bit of ‘Family’ foreshadow – immediately and in a way that feels comfortable and real.


The artful black and white shots in the film are crystal clear and – at times – darkly beautiful. Adding tone and texture story without going too far on the ‘Art Film’ front!




Imagine, if you will, an Ansel Adams ode to post-punk Los Angeles. A scene the star of this film knows well enough. His band really did have a pretty good run being the bad boys of the music.


Known at the time as members of the infamous ‘BuddyHead Collective’, Cardone’s band, The Icarus Line, once infamously smashed Stevie Ray Vaughn’s display guitar while at South by Southwest, they warred with local contemporaries and in one insane incident, Cardamone himself ruthlessly spray-painted a rowdy insult along the side of The Strokes’ tour bus!


– Joe Cardemone 

[Written on the side of The Strokes’ tour bus]

Clearly, Joe Cardemone was never one to trifle with words – or to play willy-nil with his Punk ethos! So it is a matter of course that they made a movie about him… and who better to play the part than the man who lived it.


Certainly, not everyone hates Joe. Icons and contemporaries such as Jerry Stahl, Keith Morris (Black Flag / Circle Jerks) and psychedelic post-pop star, Ariel Pink all make cameos, among more than a handful of other familiar names and faces from the underground punk/rock scene in L.A.


Once we’re in. We travel along with Joe over weeks of ups and downs, meeting a number of people along the way. Each lf them – in telling their small part – shining a bit more light on the life and style – and impact that Joe has had over the decade and a half since his first “Big break”… and during the imminent – and hopefully temporary – collapse.




The film paints a shadowy portrait of the ‘Artist as a Man’: Joe’s partner is stressed to the seams at carrying the wolf’s share of their financial weight, old friends show the slowing signs of age and hard living [we visit a long-term pal who is back with his parents, due to incapacitating ailments.


A current key band member informs Joe that he is setting off to work on his own thing, while a problematic ex-Band-Brother tries his hand at a comeback. Opportunities ebb, flow, come and go. Shades and waves of ‘selling out’ are quickly quelled. And the problems of doubt, age and latent rage just keep coming.


All the while, a serious ominous anonymous threats and less-than-good news come in at a rate and regularity that soon starts to seem deadly serious.


The cast of characters who step in and out of frame put forth solid and very natural, performances. Pearl Charles, in an almost genius dark-comic turn, as an ex-band-member, talented musical muse and future work prospect rambles her way through a semi-improvised run of scientology, conspiracy theories and other musings of the mentally unstable. Really… she is so good, it’s almost funny!


While everyone seems to love his latest hardcore musical creations, no one seems ready to run a risk on Joe’s record. Although the running gag of a constant caller landed on me by the second call, the film itself isn’t entirely predictable and there are a good number of surprises to be had.


All along, the light at the end of a once very dark tunnel shines incrementally brighter by the fade-out of every scene. By the time of the last couple of music performance scenes, we get the idea that old Joe and THE ICARUS LINE just might be ok in the end… if only.


For those of us that like a good Alternative, to the norm check this one out… in theaters for limited release and available on the small screens, Soon!

Words: Jason Sugars