The History Of American Punk Rock 1980-1986 is the subtitle, and American Hardcore is exactly what it says it is: a colorful, warts-and-all review of the sound and fury of the hard-core punk movement--a musical and cultural rebellion that provided quick-and-dirty anthems for the pissed-off youth of America during the Reagan years.
American Hardcore relies heavily on the entertaining, if occasionally appalling, oral history provided by punk luminaries, some near-household names (Henry Rollins, Ian MacKaye, and...Moby?) and others undoubtedly familiar only to those who spent a good portion of their youth Sharpie-ing big black X's (the temporary tattoo of choice for the clean-living, straight-edge subculture) on the backs of their hands.
Considering all the hard living that went on, as witnessed in the raucous, often violently ass-kicking on- and offstage archival footage, one of the amazing things about American Hardcore is how many of the film's interviewees didn't need to be discussed in a posthumous fashion.
It's hard to separate the film itself from its subjects, as American Hardcore is clearly identified and aligned with the punk movement--meaning punk's foibles are its own. Thus, one comes away with a sense of a nihilistic revolution that ate itself--a nonconformist's rebellion quickly subsumed by its own brand of conformity.
To the credit of the film, the filmmakers and the subjects themselves, American Hardcore realizes this, giving modern-day poseurs a final flip of the finger: Punk is dead, and the movie is ultimately just a hell of an autopsy.