Darby Crash, as depicted in the opening scene of the 10-years-in-the-making biopic What We Do Is Secret, looks idiotic. With a mouthful of crooked teeth, the ringleader of the Germs, at one point Los Angeles' most exciting punk band, talks out of his ass about circles and Nazis and how his band is fascist but without all the killing stuff. It's a reminder of how young, outsider, and painfully dumbass punk rock once was, but it sets up a wearisome introduction to a rock film that thankfully improves as it goes on.

A movie about a rock star (to use the term loosely here) is only as good as the romanticism it lobs at its subject. While director Rodger Grossman's efforts are initially a hard sell, if you can get past the sinking sensation that you're about to endure over an hour's worth of some seriously uncritical and stale idolatry, you'll find yourself on a pleasant enough trip through the LA punk scene of the late '70s. Your guides: the purposeful train-wreck Crash (played by Shane West) and his bandmates Lorna Doom (Bijou "Why Am I Famous Again?" Phillips), Pat Smear (Rick Gonzalez), and Don Bolles (Noah Segan).

It never quite becomes clear what Crash's grand "five-year plan" was, though the film's repeated reference to it indicates a desire to draw profundity from it. Five years after breaking out on the scene, Crash intentionally overdosed (ta-da!), and the poignancy of his suicide's overshadowing by the assassination of John Lennon could scarcely have been planned. Appropriately enough, What We Do works best when it steps away from its search for meaning.