Two Cents is an original column akin to a book club for films. The Cinapse team will program films and contribute our best, most insightful, or most creative thoughts on each film using a maximum of 200 words each. Guest writers and fan comments are encouraged, as are suggestions for future entries to the column. Join us as we share our two cents on films we love, films we are curious about, and films we believe merit some discussion.
Look, what could we possibly say about Stunt Rock that wasn’t spelled out by the film’s own legendary trailer?
Conceived by notorious ‘Oz-ploitation’ maestro Brian Trenchard-Smith (apparently while he was in the shower?) as an easy sell for the youth of the world, Stunt Rock aimed to combine stunts with, wait for it, rock. The film’s ‘plot’ follows accomplished Australian stuntman Grant Page (as himself) as he travels to America and begins doing stuntwork. In between stunts, he hangs out with his cousin’s band, Sorcery, and attends their shows, which involve large-scale magic tricks and an ongoing stage battle between a rock’n’roll wizard and the devil himself.
Despite being intended as an easy commercial hit (with the bulk of its running time made up of musical performances and clips of Page’s stunt work), Stunt Rock more or less vanished after its initial theatrical release. The film obtained a kind of mythic status in the early days of the Internet, eventually garnering a wider release onto DVD.
But, after all this time, does Stunt Rock still…rock?
Next Week’s Pick:
We’ve been covering some of the, uh, ‘scrappier’, let us say, edges of cinema of late, so let’s inject a little bit of class back into these proceedings.
Mulan occupies an odd place in the Disney canon. It’s generally well-liked, but rarely gets mentioned as one of the more beloved entries in the Disney Renaissance, like the likes of Beauty and the Beast or Aladdin. Yet Disney is betting big on the tale’s lasting appeal, spending a reported $290 million on a live action remake directed by Niki Whale Rider Caro and starring Liu Yifei in the titular role along with Donnie Yen, Jet Li, and Gong Li.
Mulan is currently streaming on Netflix Instant.
Would you like to be a guest in next week’s Two Cents column? Simply watch and send your under-200-word review on any MCU film to twocents(at)cinapse.co anytime before midnight on Thursday!
Squint ever so slightly and Brian Trenchard-Smith’s Stunt Rock appears to be some bizarro sequel to This is Spinal Tap. Well, a cheaper, Oz-ploitation rip-off sequel, but the example still holds. Non-stop madcap stunt insanity, with one of the most ludicrous of stories stapled onto it, just for an excuse to feature endless rock concert footage. Sorry, “experience”, because everything that happens in Stunt Rock has to be felt by the audience. That’s key to everyone’s enjoyment here: the ability to let oneself go as everything transpires. While it was never likely to win any awards, it’s hard to totally put down a film like this. There’s earnest excitement punctuating every fireball that Merlin throws at the Devil (yes, you read that right). Or every death defying leap, crash, roll, dive, or crash stunt man Grant Page makes. All in the name of pure entertainment. Say what you will about the hokier aspects or disjointed nature on display, but those same elements are what make it unique & brilliant. They always say you’ve never seen a film like this before, and with Stunt Rock, that’s not an exaggeration. Plus, it has one of the most garishly glorious posters ever made. (@YoAdrianTorres)
HEAVY. METAL. WIZARD.
What, you want me to say more than that? Ugh, fine — although honestly if you’re not sold from those three words alone I doubt you’ll be on board for the rest of it. Stunt Rock is a fun, if scattered, oddball of a movie designed to showcase the talents of both Australian stuntman Grant Page and LA-based rock band Sorcery. To that end, it’s not what I would call a plot-driven film. As writer/director Brian Trenchard-Smith put it, “”Famous stuntman meets famous rock group. Much stunt, much rock. The kids will go bananas.”
It’s interesting to see a legit stuntman play a starring role (it calls to mind Zoë Bell’s turn to acting in Death Proof), and Page is fairly charismatic. The movie doesn’t really give him much to do beyond wander from one stunt sequence to the next, as he ostensibly makes his Hollywood debut working on an action tv series. Those stunt sequences are very impressive, however — even the ones cribbed as stock footage from other movies. Equally fascinating are the concert film-style sequences featuring the band Sorcery. Their stage show hinges on a gimmick — the musicians are accompanied by a pair of magicians who play the roles of Merlin and Satan and engage in a kind of pyrotechnic wizards’ duel over the course of the concert. It sounds a little hokey, but I bet in person it was pretty cool to watch. Stunt Rock is a curio, but it’s an entertaining curio. The stunts are impressive, if deliberately self-indulgent, and the concert sequences are often more compelling than the more character-based scenes in the film. As a pure distillation of cinema as bodily spectacle (as opposed to narrative), Stunt Rock’s combination of stunt sequences, rock music, and magic is unrivaled. It may not be “good,” but it’s definitely fun. (@T_Lawson)
Well, I’m glad you guys had fun. In Not Quite Hollywood, the documentary all about the golden age of ‘Oz-ploitation’ films, the various talking heads sometimes take a break from slathering praise onto the low-budget and low-rent programmers to admit that, yeah, the films are mostly boring nonsense, but worth suffering through because the intermittent moments of insane stunt work were worth it. Putting together a movie that is just that insane stunt work, with only the most nominal of plots serving as a framing device, actually seems like a solid idea.
But man oh man was this a chore to get through. Page is a perfectly charming leading man, and the actual stunt footage, combined with the meat-and-potatoes inner workings into how these stunts get staged and executed, is all very compelling. But there’s nowhere enough to actually fill a feature film (at one point Trenchard-Smith just cuts to a montage of car crash footage from Gone in 60 Seconds, a jarring non sequitur so blatant it may as well be a Tim & Eric bit) and the attempts to pad it out with Hollywood soap opera nonsense are painful.
And then there’s Sorcery. It sure seems like they’d be a fun band to see live. Once. And it’s sure fun to watch their big stage show. Once. But every time they cut back to ANOTHER full, uncut number from these guys, I started groaning. The whole thing is so off-brand Spinal Tap, I kept expecting a mini-Stonehenge to descend from the ceiling. It doesn’t help that there’s absolutely no connection between the two halves of the film besides Trenchard-Smith’s market research. (@theTrueBrendanF)
“Have you seen Gone in 60 Seconds?”
At almost the exact midpoint of Stunt Rock, stuntman and protagonist Grant Page asks this question and the movie cuts to a full two minutes of chase footage from H.B. Halicki’s famed 1974 muscle-car melee. It’s mind-bogglingly bizarre, hilarious, action-packed, and undeniably tacky. It’s Stunt Rock.
Stunt Rock’s famously insane trailer is a cult classic curio of Ozploitation oddness, but the feature has a hard time keeping up that zany momentum, with amazing footage of Page’s wild stunts paired with way too much time with wizard-themed hair-band Sorcery (which is awesome in theory but gets old very quickly), and a lot of nonsense in-between. The faux-documentary that strings everything together feels very scripted, yet is lean on any meaningful plot.
…Which all sounds a lot more damning than it really is. I love director Brian Trenchard-Smith and this is a great concept, even if the execution is a bit lacking. Page’s death-defying stunt work (which is clearly the highlight of the film) remains incredible, even if it doesn’t come at the breakneck pace of the trailer, and I think we can all count ourselves privileged to have finally checked out this previously hard-to-come-by rarity that’s more famous for its trailer than the actual film itself. (@VforVashaw)
Next week’s pick: