The title remarks upon a 54 year old crack and heroin addict who appears to be on his last legs. Robert Lieberman is a fading rock star, who never had his big moment. Pentagram was a heavy metal band described as a street version of Black Sabbath. Lieberman was their singer. Despite being an extremely powerful performer and artist – which becomes apparent to all who witness him on stage or on listening to one of his band’s albums, he was also the band’s undoing.
Lieberman was unreliable due mostly to his drug habit. He was disrespectful when others would be cautious. He was a red hot ball of rage, sex, drugs and rock and roll. An artist with integrity; never willing to compromise. That is only part of the reason that their big breaks failed to deliver a rise to fame.
Pentagram did draw a loyal following in the 70’s but the live shows were all disasters – Lieberman made sure of that. A fan who befriended Lieberman, believes in him and spends most of the film trying to give Pentagram one last shot at getting a great record made and sold.
This story is a tragedy of what drugs can do to a man. How hard it can be to pick yourself up off the floor. How some semblance of life as an individual, a routine, interaction with society, being productive – can be important, as a way to move forward. For Lieberman it’s all about the music, but the other half of his mind responds to this with - Yes, but it’s also all about the woman. And all about the drugs. Not necessarily in that order.
With the importance of this band to the heavy metal genre (In the film we are introduced to Down’s Phil Anselmo – formerly of Pantera; one of the big four metal bands and one of the most successful heavy metal bands of the new age. He approaches Lieberman with a genuine offer to make a great record, if he can stay out of trouble and follow through,) it seems like a missed opportunity that this hasn’t equated to record sales.
Much of the focus of the film seems to be the question – Will Lieberman pull it together long enough for one last shot at greatness. No probing questions are asked. The interviewer is a friend to Lieberman and manager - more so than evocative filmmaker. The relationship with Hally halfway through the film is barely brushed over. We only know what effect she has on him – giving him a reason to quit drugs, making him feel alive and really start doing something with his life and eventually driving him half crazy.
When we first meet Lieberman it’s not quite a pathetic picture. It ticks all the boxes for pathetic. Getting old while still living with the folks, no skills or experience to progress him in the job market. No money, drug addict, screwing about in his parent’s basement. But there is more to Lieberman than this position that he has found himself in. He is driven and he is an addict. If he can succeed and if he can kick it, he could be more than what we see. He’s far more interesting and good as a person than what is granted the title of pathetic loser.