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Australia 2004
Directed by
Darren Ashton
100 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2 stars


Synopsis: In 1991, after a near-death experience, five mates, all dedicated AC/DC fans, make a pact to bury whomsoever of them dies first next to their idol Bon Scott.12 years later they have to make good their promise.

Thanks to the Film Finance Corporation and its partners we have yet another addition to the very long line of Aussie 'blue collar' comedies, one that will no doubt grace theatre screens briefly before disappearing into oblivion

On the face of it, making a film centred on AC/DC is a good idea. Legends of Rock, Australian icons, irresistibly anthemic songs. How could you go wrong? Well try a prosaic script that re-cycles deadly familiar characters and you're on the way. Leaving out the music is a huge help. And laughing at Akker Dakker fans, rather than with them, pretty much completes the job.

Thunderstruck dutifully follows in the footsteps of the swag of failed Australian comedies from last year, like The Honourable Wally Norman and The Wannabes, that were all trying to emulate the success of The Castle (1997) - stories of likeably plucky dunderheads who seize the day, fall on their faces, but, after a number of amusing vicissitudes, end up with their little victories. That is the skeleton of this film, padded out with visual and verbal gags that are largely forced into the narrative and only occasionally work (there is one memorable one, involving John Doyle and the popular notion that isolated communities are given to expedient sexual practices). For the most part indeed it's the same film only with the names changed - thus we have Stephen Curry from The Castle as the gullible Ben, Ryan Johnson from The Wannabes as the thick-as-two-bricks Sam, Roy Billing from The Dish (2000) as Sgt. Tiny. The supermarket owner Mr Koyths (pronounced Koitus) really should have been in Wally Norman's home town of Given Heads, whilst the simulated Naomi Robson segment is reminiscent of the Current Affairs-style segments from that film (although not as good). Etcetera, etcetera

If the tired roster of endearing eccentricity and guileless buffoonery is hardly likely to appeal to a general movie-going audience, the depiction of AC/DC devotees as badly dressed, chronically low IQ losers who couldn't organize a piss-up in a brewery, true as it may be, is not like to please what might have been considered the main, and not inconsiderable, audience for this film. Even they would probably have overlooked this shortcoming had there been plenty of Akker Dakker music, but bar the dodgily-simulated concert rendition of Thunderstruck that opens the film, a snippet of TNT and the lame version of Long Way To The Top by our four dunderheads that closes it, that is it.

There are elements of the film to like - Sonny's wonderfully kitsch family home, the despoliation of his Dad's Tarago, Rachel Gordon's excruciatingly vain Molly, some impressive exterior photography by Geoffrey Hall and the overall spirit of well-meaning incompetence - but not enough to distinguish this film as a whole from its legion of poor relatives. One wonders what kind of accountability applies in the Australian film-funding process. If there is any, whoever green-lighted this project has made a good case for the return of the birch. When you consider what School Of Rock (2003) did with wannabe-rock heroism and AC/DC, we can only look at Thunderstruck and weep for lost opportunities.




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