I dig the Australians. Always have. Can't put my finger on precisely why, but there's something entirely fascinating about the country itself, and the people are even cooler. Both the famous Aussies and the ones I know personally; laid-back, funny, talented, colorful people who love to drink beer, laugh, and cover your ass in a bar-fight. Basically when it comes to the land of the kangaroo and koala, I'm a big fan.
So when I caught wind of an Aussie indie import entitled Thunderstruck, I made sure it found its way into my DVD player. And sure enough, this low-budget comedy scrapper proved more than vibrant, goofy, fast-paced, and sincere enough to warrant my seal of approval. It's not a brilliant or particularly unique little story, but Thunderstruck is awash in the sights, the sounds, and the attitudes that, to me, absolutely scream Australia.
Imagine Detroit Rock City with some actual heart (and some actual laughs) combined with the recent indie road-flick Grand Theft Parsons, and you've got Thunderstruck pegged. It's about four old buddies who reunite 12 years after their collective heyday when the fifth member of their gang is killed on a golf course. The friends recall a promise made over ten years earlier: When the first member of the crew kicks the bucket, the remaining four will bury him next to legendary AC/DC rocker Bon Scott.
So after a somewhat slow start, the formula of Thunderstruck kicks in quite cleanly: Four old pals, now amazingly different, will drive clear across the Australian countryside, dealing with all sorts of hazards and goofballs along the way, just to bury their old pal next to Australia's greatest rock star.
True, it's just a simple "road movie" construct, but keep in mind that Thunderstruck offers four entirely affable actors in the lead roles, a surprisingly jaunty and effective musical score, and a first-time director who's fluent in both visual style and effective characterization. So while this trip might seem a little bit familiar, it's populated by likable lugs, fantastic sights, a few truly amusing moments, and a finale that manages to exhibit some real heart without doling out the sap.
The cast of unknowns (that's to say: unknown to me) is quite excellent throughout. The four lead lunkheads (Damon Gameau, Stephen Curry, Ryan Johnson & Callan Mulvey) strike a smooth chemistry together, and the screenwriters were smart enough to not paint these guys with too broad a brush-stroke. True, one's a rocker, one's a drug-dealer, one's a bit nerdy, etc., but that's not all the characters are. The supporting ladies are also quite good; Rachel Gordon, in particular, as a stunningly sexy and amazingly evil new widow, steals several scenes with very little discernible effort.
Thunderstruck is a character-first, schtick-second sort of comedy, for the most part, and it's when the boys' trek becomes a national spectacle that the movie settles into a solid little groove. Pratfalls, pit-stops, and plot twists are all fine and good (indeed they're expected in any worthwhile "road movie"), but as Thunderstruck slides into the Act III home stretch, you might be surprised by how much fun you're having.
Video: Presented in a surprisingly shiny Widescreen Anamorphic format, Thunderstruck looks a whole lot better than its meager budget would imply.
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 or 2.0, and the 5.1 track does the music proud. Not only is Thunderstruck laden with classic rock tunes, but David Thrussell's playful little score also pipes through in fine form.
As they do in most cases, Anchor Bay delivers a healthy handful of extra goodies.
Making Thunderstruck is a 13-minute promotional featurette that delivers behind-the-scenes footage, cast & crew interviews, and the normal backstage silliness. It's a fluffy little piece, but it covers a lot of ground in under 15 minutes, too.
There's a feature-length audio commentary with director Darren Ashton and producer Jodi Matterson, which is just as breezy and personable as the movie itself. The filmmakers seem genuinely grateful for the opportunity and very pleased with the final product. The duo keeps the info flowing along smoothly, which means if you enjoyed the movie, you should absolutely give the chat-track a spin when you get a spare 90 minutes.
Also included is a 28-minute collection of deleted scenes, each of which are preceded by introductions by director Darren Ashton and editor Martin Connor. The pair explain why each of the excised bits hit the cutting room floor, and some of these deleted moments contain some solid chuckles. Rounding out the platter are a foursome of trailers: Thunderstruck, Lightning Bug, Martin & Orloff, and Dead & Breakfast.
Like I said at the beginning, I'm kind of a sucker for most of the Aussie Cinema imports, so you might just walk away from Thunderstruck a little less enthused than I was. But regardless of where the flick comes from, I still think it's a warm-hearted little road comedy, full of silly side-trips, colorful characters, and just enough heart to keep the adventure afloat.
Plus if you're a huge AC/DC fan, you should absolutely bump Thunderstruck to the top of your rental list.