This film could have been titled “There Will Be Beef.”
"Empire Records" is a microcosm movie, one of those films where in a single day, in a single music store, every conceivable thing happens to every conceivable character, and at the end of the day, they are all a lot wiser, as the endless list of music credits scrolls up the screen.
Like movies as different as "Car Wash" and "Clerks," the movie creates a small world that functions as family and universe for its inhabitants. The characters work at Empire Records, located in a fictional small town in Delaware. They're all more or less members of Generation X, except for Joe (Anthony LaPaglia), the store manager who serves as a father figure. And they're about to face a crisis, because the store owner has decided to sell out to the hated Music City chain, which has a dress code that outlaws tattoos and body piercing and would basically disqualify the entire Empire Records staff.
As the movie opens, an employee named Lucas (Rory Cochrane) has found out about the threat from Music City and taken a day's worth of the store's receipts to Atlantic City to win enough money to buy the store for Joe, so they can all keep working there. He fails, and so Joe must find a way to cover the shortage of funds while saving the store and weathering the personal appearance of MTV star Rex Manning (Maxwell Caulfield), who looks like Fabio on a bad hair day.
It's a good thing the trip to the casinos opens the movie, because Cochrane's performance is the best thing in "Empire Records." Like Christian Slater's disaffected disc jockey in 1990's "Pump Up the Volume" (also directed by Allan Moyle), Cochrane's record clerk is a smart, alienated individualist with an oblique sense of humor.
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