Dir: Darren Ashton. Australia. 2004. 100mins

For vitality, volume and pace the team behind high-octane rock 'n' rollroad movie Thunderstruck can't be faulted. The debut feature fromfirst-timers Darren Ashton (director), Jodi Matterson (producer) and ShaunAngus Hall (writer), it follows the members of a failed rock group, first atthe height of their teen optimism, then 12 years later as they come to termswith their broken dreams and unsatisfying lives.

The film's target audience of teen and early twentysomethings are likelyto respond with enthusiasm when Icon opens it at home on 153 screens on May 20.International prospects and ancillary also look healthy, especially incountries, like the UK, where rock music and fandom are currently undergoing aresurgence. A vibrant soundtrack, released by Sony, can also only help.

The film opens with a thunderous 1991 concert by Aussie supergrouprockers AC/DC (the film's title refers to one of their songs). Crushed in thefront row are the five members of unknown Sydney band Jack. High on the musicof their heroes, and convinced they've just missed involvement in a fatal taxiaccident, they make an oath before a faded alleyway poster of Bon Scott, theoriginal AC/DC lead singer, who died of alcohol poisoning in 1980.

Whichever of them dies first, the boys swear, the others will bury himin Fremantle Cemetery next to Bon. The fact that Fremantle is over 4,000km fromSydney doesn't trouble their youthful earnestness.

Moving forward 12 years, Ashton successfully reintroduces the five, nowex-rockers, as they drift along in tedious jobs and unfulfilling marriages.When lightning permanently reduces them to a quartet, the shocked survivors arereunited and, after the forced kidnap of initially unwilling members, begin a larkytrans-Australia road trip with a container of ashes.

From here the film swaps its thoughtful comedy/drama for horseplay and asuccession of increasingly wacky encounters with - among others - crazy waysidechaplains, disabled footballers, kilted sheriffs, massed line dancers, randybridesmaids and oddball AC/DC fanatics. Some mainstream audiences may betroubled by the undercurrent of gross-out comedy (the final shot is a close-upof a rock fan's penis).

Spot jokes and surreal sketches (some quite amusing) replace narrativeand character development, as if the film-makers have lost confidence inholding their target audience without a large injection of goofy fun. Thischange of gear also eventually undermines a narrative that has somethinginteresting to say about facing up to being an adult and confronting death.

Fortunately, Ashton finds his way again with an impressive climacticcemetery sequence where a large crowd gathers to hear the reformed Jackscelebrate their lost heroes with an impromptu gig from the back of a truck.

Soundtrack, trans-continent photography and editing are of a highstandard. And it's much to Ashton credit that his leads (Gameau, Curry,Johnson, Mulvey, Worthington) convince at both ages and blend so well togetheras musicians and long-standing mates. There's not a weak link among them.Trans-continent photography and editing are of a high standard.

Prod cos: Wild Eddie Films
Aust/NZ dist:
Icon Film Dist
Int'l sales:
BV International Pictures
Exec prods:
Al Clark, Andrena Finlay
Jodi Matterson
Shaun Angus Hall, Ashton
Geoffrey Hall
Prod des:
Karen Harborow
Martin Connor
David Thrussell, Francois Tetaz
Main cast:
Damon Gameau, Stephen Curry, Ryan Johnson, Callan Mulvey, SamWorthington