Owen Gleiberman
December 20, 2013 AT 05:00 AM EST

When a film is as toothless and fake as CBGB, a biopic of the famous punk club, there’s a special distinction to being the most cringe-inducingly bogus scene in the entire movie. It’s early in the club’s heyday, and a new singer named Patti Smith (Mickey Sumner) has come on stage, brandishing her scruffy scowl. She starts off reading a snippet of Rimbaud, which is a bit embarrassing in a “Look! How bohemian!” sort of way. And then she performs a song. Does she do “Gloria”? “Horses”? No, she launches into the studio rendition of “Because the Night,” the poppy Top 40 crossover hit that Smith composed with Bruce Springsteen and did indeed release…in 1978. Three years after she made her debut at CBGB. It’s like seeing the spirit of punk sell out before it’s born.

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