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Visual interpretation of lyrics adds little to concert film

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Metallica takes  And Justice for All literally onstage.

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Metallica takes And Justice for All literally onstage.

Metallica: Through the Never is something like the ultimate fan's concert film. Expense and fire marshals be damned, these gents -- James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett and Robert Trujillo -- and their extensive road crew put on a show -- Tesla Coils, lasers, gigantic video-screened coffins, an electric chair, a statue of Lady Justice built on stage (and destroyed).

For non-fans? Perhaps Tinnitus: The Musical, fits. If the 3D glasses don't give you a headache, the high-energy/higher decibel stage show by one of the world's heaviest heavy metal bands will pick up the slack.

Through the Never is a greatest-hits concert set interwoven with a roadie/gofer's experience of their music -- anarchy, blood, riots in the streets -- as the kid, Trip (Dane DeHaan), is sent from the arena where they're performing to fetch a truck that's run out of gas, a truck that holds "something the band needs tonight."

The kid pops a pill, cranks up his ancient Ford Econoline and drives off into the night. And director Nimrod Antal (Kontroll, Predators) sees to it that strange things start to happen -- dream fugues where Trip thinks he's floating in water, nightmares where the streets are alive with masked anarchists battling riot police, all set to the music of Metallica as we cut back and forth from the musical mayhem indoors to the real mayhem outside.

The situation seems ripe, at first blush, for a somewhat humorous misadventure on the order of that KISS movie about the theme park, or Detroit Rock City or ABBA: The Movie. But Metallica aren't humorous. They're as serious as a heart attack. Which works for them, because wherever else you absorb their music, you feel it in your chest first.

The street stuff is given little screen time, with no dialogue and only a gas-masked horseman and the young gofer's talismanic rear-view-mirror doll as characters. Which is just as well, because whatever message is implied in the violent brawls and chases, it probably means more to those who have memorized the set list and all the lyrics (mostly unintelligible, performed live) therein.

The nine-time Grammy winners cover 30 years of thrash metal success, from Hit the Lights and Enter Sandman to Cyanide. The camera swoops in on their theatre-in-the-round stage set and gives us plenty of close-ups and a full dose of their live show's energetic playing.

But Metallica, here, don't really interact with the audience, and don't stray far from their power-chords-played-fast style.

And since the movie's street side dream doesn't add much more than a gimmicky "interpretation" of their sound, you're left with a deafening dirge -- well-played, but really, no improvement on your basic concert film.

-- McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 27, 2013 D3

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Updated on Friday, September 27, 2013 at 8:55 AM CDT: adds video

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