After a near death experience at a 1991 AC/DC concert, teenage best friends Sonny, Ben, Lloyd, Sam and Ronnie swear a solemn pact: If one of them should die before the age of forty, the remaining four will bury him next to the grave of Aussie rock legend Bon Scott. Twelve years later, when Ronnie is killed in a freak accident, his friends must reunite, steal his remains from his pop star wife, and cross Australia on a road trip that takes some very strange turns. But even if they can dodge the media, escape the police and break every law along the way, will these bickering former friends break their final promise?
Thunderstruck was nominated for two Australian Academy Awards including Best Original Score, and features an explosive soundtrack of songs by AC/DC, Bon Scott & Fraternity, Killing Heidi, Hayseed Dixie and more.
I’m no fan of AC/DC. While I don’t think I know a person alive who doesn’t like at least one of their songs (in all likelihood “Back in Black” ), I have found myself unable to get beyond Brian Johnson’s throat-clenching vocals and the simple-minded, juvenile lyrics. The music isn’t awe-inspiring either, but I must admit that there are a couple of riffs or licks that I rather like.
When it first came out, I was suddenly intrigued by the band. The gimmicky video was amusing to my teenage mind and the chorus was infectious. So, when one of my best friends picked up the corresponding album, ‘The Razors Edge’ (sic), I had to give it a listen. I discovered that I simply could not get beyond that voice. I just couldn’t.
‘Thunderstruck’ revolves around a bunch of friends who, after seeing AC/DC on their ‘Razors Edge’ tour, decide to make a pact: that if one of them died he would be buried next to Bon Scott, the deceased former frontman of the hard rock legends. Flash forward a decade or so later, after a golfing accident during which one of them was struck down by lightning, and the former friends must get together again to make good on that past promise.
Even though I couldn’t relate to these budding rock stars (having never been in a band), their mindless antics (I was never that much of a jack @$$ ) or their partying ways (um… what can I say? I’m a teetotaler…), I found myself connecting with this group of guys from the onset. Was it because their ages matched my own? Was it because I grew up (or didn’t, depending on your point of view ) at about the same time as they did? I couldn’t say. But I wasn’t just a bystander, watching this film.
This was not to last, however. By the time that our quartet hit the road on their journey to Fremantle Cemetery, I found myself detaching from the group ever slightly and gradually more so. By then, the film was mostly about their silly antics, about the karazzay things they did or that happened to them. It was certainly funny, but it wasn’t nearly as emotionally resonant as it had been ’til then. I mean, road movies are a dime a dozen, and there wasn’t much that was new to this one, as far as I was concerned.
There was hope at one point in the picture, though, when a rumour started going around that they were carrying Bon Scott’s ashes and that AC/DC would be playing at the cemetery as a tribute to their fallen singer. Then I started thinking that the movie might morph into something larger, something almost epic, with a growing number of secondary characters flooding it. Alas, we got a goofy pair of inept metalheads, but nothing much more than that (well, there’s always the cemetery sequence itself, but that’s pretty much it).
Still, despite the bad wigs and the serious editing issues in some of the scenes, which utilized clearly different takes from shot to shot, ‘Thunderstruck’ was a largely amusing romp: it’s filled with chuckles, if not downright gutbusters, the actors are enthusiastic and appropriate enough, and the music kicks @$$. It’s not a masterpiece by any means, but it’s fun enough to warrant checking out – even if one is not a fan of AC/DC. At its core, “Thunderstruck” is a salute to those who like to rock. And who doesn’t?