Do you know AC/DC is Australian? I didn’t, at least until I watched Thunderstruck. No, it’s not a documentary or a concert video or a music video of the famous song. It’s an Australian road trip comedy. Since I’m away this weekend at Hal-Con, I thought I’d review Thunderstruck and continue the “review Australian movies on DVD when I go away” trend that I started in August with Newcastle. If you haven’t heard of Thunderstruck (and very few people have) it goes like this:
Four washed up AC/DC fans reunite to steal their dead friend’s ashes and bury them next to former AC/DC singer Bon Scott.
Despite the emphasis on AC/DC, you don’t have to be a fan of the band, or even know of the band, to enjoy this movie. The boys know enough about AC/DC to cover for your lack of knowledge and at heart it’s a road trip movie about friends and unfulfilled dreams, which pretty much everyone can relate to. Plus, it’s just plain fun to watch.
The movie starts in the early 1990s, otherwise known as the era of bad hair and plaid shirts. Five teenagers Sonny (Damon Gameau), Ronnie (Sam Worthington), Sam (Callan Mulvey), Lloyd (Ryan Johnson), and Ben (Stephen Curry), are having the best night of their lives. Not only do they get to see AC/DC live in concert, but Ronnie’s sister Amy (Kestie Morassi) has also helped them sneak into an exclusive party at AC/DC’s hotel.
With our perfectly respectable haircuts, of course we’ll blend right in with the upscale waitstaff.
They get kicked out, of course. On their way to catch a cab, they get distracted by huge poster of AC/DC’s former lead singer, Bon Scott (who is dead), which ends up saving their lives. They make a pact then and there that if any of them is killed, the others will bury him next to Bon Scott. They expect that they’ll always be together and that their AC/DC styled band “The Jack” will make it big. Unfortunately, Ronnie’s peppy new girlfriend Molly (Rachel Gordon) drives a wedge between them.
The other boys look like they came by their hair naturally, but
Sam Worthington looks like he stole his off a mannequin.
Fast forward a decade or so, and Sonny’s still mooching off his parents, Ben’s a grocery store clerk, Sam’s been fired from every job in the universe, Lloyd’s a drug mule, and Ronnie’s a jingle writer in the middle of a messy divorce from his popstar wife.
As you can see, they’re splitting everything 50/50.
The boys haven’t talked to each other in years, but when a tragic accident befalls Ronnie (from the title, I think you can guess what happens to him) they decide to reunite to honor the pact. The only problem is that Ronnie’s ex-wife Molly isn’t exactly on board, so they have to steal his ashes. Literally.
Go go go!
Being washed up city losers, they have no transportation, so Sonny steals (according to his dad) or borrows (according to his mom) the family van and together they set off to drive Ronnie’s ashes thousands of kilometers across Australia from Sydney to the graveyard in Perth, which is a fun way for us, the audience, to learn about the geography of Australia.
Unlike most road trip movies, Thunderstruck doesn’t have to rely solely on standard road trip obstacles like the car breaking down or falling in a pond. There’s also conflict coming from all sides: Lloyd’s got the Asian Triads after him, a pissed off Molly sics the TV news on them for nicking her hubby’s ashes, and Sonny’s dad wants his van back, dammit. Plus the AC/DC angle attracts unwanted attention from other (dumber) fans who get in their way.
Dumber as in: box of rocks dumb.
But as difficult as the trip is, it rekindles their friendship, relaunches their band, and nets everyone girlfriends, which is a lot for a movie to accomplish without seeming compressed and overambitious. Thunderstruck pulls it all off beautifully. And what’s more: it’s consistently hilarious throughout, which is an important quality for a comedy to have. It’s not the kind of comedy that beats you over the head, it’s clever and more subtle than your typical American film, which we can credit to the writers, Darren Ashton and Shaun Angus Hall.
“I want my half of the ashes… you probably don’t understand this, being so ordinary.”
The best part about the movie though is the dynamic that the four friends have. Sonny’s the leader, Sam’s the jerk, Lloyd’s the idiot, and Ben’s the stick in the mud, but it goes much deeper than that. You can really believe these guys have known each other forever.
I love it when they sing “Total Eclipse of the Heart” together.
Director Darren Ashton achieved this by having all the actors get together for a theater boot camp style bonding period before they started filming. Australian actors seem to have a better record of awesomeness and believability than actors from a lot of other nations, and I think this is why: they’re dedicated. They take their work seriously and they really want to make something worthwhile rather than just showing up to collect a paycheck and attract a flock of fans who like them because of how they look.
Though it’s not like any of them are really hard on the eyes, either (at least after they cut their hair)
I really like Thunderstruck and I’ve shown it to lots of my Canadian friends, most of whom don’t know much about Australia. The verdict: it’s awesome. It’s clever, fascinating, and great fun to watch. What more could you want, really?