Review: ‘Soul Boys of the Western World’ recalls Spandau Ballet heyday

Spandeau Ballet at Live Aid in George Hencken's film "Soul Boys of the Western World."

Spandeau Ballet at Live Aid in George Hencken’s film “Soul Boys of the Western World.”

(Sundance Selects)

This much is true: In 1983, recording acts didn’t get much hotter than Spandau Ballet, the poster boys of the New Romantic movement, whose infectious ballad “True” topped the charts in 21 countries.

George Hencken’s “Soul Boys of the Western World” is an energetic, entertainingly assembled documentary portrait of the rise and inevitable fall of these five trend-savvy lads from the working-class Islington borough of London, a band that took its name from graffiti scrawled on a Berlin restroom wall.

Realizing that the punk music scene of the late ‘70s had a built-in obsolescence, the quintet augmented their guitar licks with synth lines and combined jackboots with floppy-sleeved jumpers — just in time for the arrival of MTV.

The usual trappings of fame and fortune followed, along with coveted slots on the Live Aid stage and the “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” single. But by the end of the decade, burnout, as well as that one-two punch known as ego and resentment, would take its toll.


Given that Spandau Ballet never was a critics’ darling, Hencken’s occasional stabs at deeper significance can come off as over-reaching, particularly when he places their ascendance within the sociopolitical context of the Margaret Thatcher regime.

But when it plays to its strengths, the film, like the band, mines pure ‘80s gold.

“Soul Boys of the Western World.”

No MPAA rating.

Running time: 1 hour, 46 minutes.

Playing: Arena Cinema, Hollywood