Judge Mitchell Hattaway heard that the first version of this Aussie rock and roll road trip movie celebrated the inspiring music of Air Supply, but the audience fell asleep.
Our review of Thunderstruck (Blu-ray), published December 17th, 2012, is also available.
Break every rule, but never break a promise.
Hell's bells, where did this one go wrong?
Facts of the Case
Five Australian friends take in an AC/DC concert during the band's 1991 tour in support of The Razor's Edge. They hail a cab after the show, but are distracted by an old poster of former AC/DC vocalist Bon Scott, who died in 1980. While they stop to remove the poster from the wall of the theater, the cab pulls away; moments later the cab collides with a truck and bursts into flames. Taking this to be a sign from Bon, our heroes vow to get their heavy metal band off the ground. They also make a pact: If any one of them should die before the ago of forty, the other four will take their deceased friend's body and inter it next to that of Bon.
Jump forward twelve years. With their dreams of stardom down the drain (the band broke up after the bass player's girlfriend pulled a Yoko), the friends have all moved on with their lives. Ronnie (Sam Worthington), the bass player, has made a fortune writing advertising jingles. Ben (Stephen Curry), the drummer, is assistant manager of a grocery store. Sonny (Damon Gameau), the guitarist, is unemployed and still living in his parents' house. Lloyd (Ryan Johnson), the manager, is now a drug mule. Sam (Callan Mulvey), the lead singer, is continuing his quest to be the world's biggest tool. Well, wouldn't you know it, Ronnie is struck by lightning while playing golf and dies. His body is cremated and his ashes are split between his family and his ex-wife, a one-hit-wonder pop star/harpy named Molly (Rachel Gordon). Determined to carry out the pact they made as teenagers, Ben, Sonny, Sam, and Lloyd break into Molly's house, take her half of Ronnie's remains, and set out for Fremantle, the resting place of the late Bon Scott.
I'm kind of a sucker for rock 'n' roll road movies. I've been entertained by such films as I Wanna Hold Your Hand, Detroit Rock City, and Grand Theft Parsons, so I had high hopes for Thunderstruck. Unfortunately, my hopes were dashed about thirty minutes in. See, that's when this flick totally loses its way. The first half hour, which is all setup for the trip, is fast, fun, and funny. But when the four lads hit the road, the movie up and runs out of gas. It's as if the filmmakers came up with a great first act, knew how and where they wanted the movie to end, but didn't know how to get from Point A to Point B.
Movies of this subgenre tend to be more than a little episodic, but that's not a problem if said movies are tight, well-paced and energetic, but the last hour of Thunderstruck is limp and repetitive. The four friends drive around in Sonny's dad's van. They rehash old arguments and then reconcile. There are (mostly) unfunny flashbacks to what each has been doing for the past decade. Out of nowhere they break into a rendition of Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart." The van breaks down. They get arrested. They lose Ronnie's ashes to a couple of dopes who think the remains are those of Bon Scott. This could be fun, but the story simply moves from pointless incident to pointless incident with no energy. You get five minutes of the lads in the van, followed by a two-minute detour into adventure, and then it's back in the van again. In order for this movie to succeed, it would have to be madcap and frenetic, but (for the most part) it's neither. The setup shows purpose and drive, but after that Thunderstruck becomes (for the most part) maddeningly inert.
The last hour of the flick isn't a total botch, as there are a couple of funny asides along the way. The boys stop at a convenience store for some munchies and Ben becomes involved in a shaggy-dog joke involving a misunderstanding regarding the store owner's sexual orientation. Even better is an encounter with Australia's Number Two (and soon-to-be Number One) wheelchair rugby team, the coach of which is a foul-mouthed, diminutive fellow who steals the movie in the three minutes he is on screen. And the punchline to the tale of the two idiots who steal the ashes away from our heroes is a scream. Trouble is, the remainders of the boys' adventures do nothing more than pad out the running time. (They also have a tendency to come to a halt rather abruptly; these scenes have no resolutions, but instead simply end.)
Anchor Bay has performed a good job on the technical end of this release. The transfer isn't reference quality, but it's better than you would expect from a low-budget, bonehead comedy. It's clean, clear, and free of source element flaws. My only real beef with the transfer is an abundance of overly-ruddy skin tones; I know it's Australia, but does everyone have to look like they've been slathered with burgundy paint? The audio track is primarily dialogue-driven, but the surrounds and sub really kick in during the songs sprinkled throughout the flick. (Aside from the title song, all of the AC/DC tunes in the movie are covers, including a completely wrong-headed country take on "T.N.T."). Extras include the movie's theatrical trailer, an uninformative 13-minute making-of featurette, and 27 minutes of deleted scenes. (With the exception of a funny "Where are they now?" coda, these scenes were wisely excised.) Lastly, you get a commentary by co-writer/director Darren Ashton and producer Jodi Matterson. This is one of those commentaries that's better than the film it covers. Ashton and Matterson detail every aspect of the movie's production, and they have a great time doing it. It's a shame more of their energy didn't find its way into the movie itself.
I really wanted to like this one more than I did, but in the end the filmmakers let me down.
Thunderstruck is as not guilty as it is guilty (like that makes any sense), so let's go with a sentence of time served. Court's adjourned.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
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