As you may be aware, once we hit 300 followers on Instagram I pledged to review a terrible music-related movie as chosen by you, the reader. You came through with 14 suggestions and a voting bracket was held to determine which atrocity I had to watch and review. You can see the results below, but after a series of tough matchups, the 1978 cinematic masterpiece Stunt Rock reigned victorious!
When we’re talking bad movies, there’s two broad categories of “bad”: so bad it’s charming (The Room, the Super Mario Bros. movie) and so bad you’ll want to claw your eyes out (2019 version of Cats, M. Night Shyamalan’s butchering of The Last Airbender). Stunt Rock doesn’t really fall into either of those categories. In fact, I’m not sure if you can even call it a movie. Stunt Rock will make you question your preconceptions of what makes a movie a movie, and what qualifies something as art in general.
While the movie dabbles in themes of confusion and pushing the boundaries of art, Stunt Rock truly has one main theme: Grant Page. You may know Grant Page from confusing his name with someone else you were trying to remember. In the movie, Grant Page, played by Grant Page himself, is a stuntman who definitely does some stunts. The message of the movie is that being a stuntman is the most unloved, underappreciated vocation one can dedicate themselves to.
This movie is basically Okja, but for stuntmen. Okja was a sharp critique of capitalism and the horrors it has created in the form of factory farming. Stunt Rock is a critique of the harsh demands capitalism places on stunt performers in Hollywood. The only difference between the two is that Okja had a coherent plot, compelling characters, good acting, successful tonal shifts, and memorable moments that will make you laugh, scream, and cry. Stunt Rock, on the other hand, is a series of things that were filmed and thrown together.
With a title like Stunt Rock, you would maybe expect some scenes where a rock band does stunts. Even if the choreography and dialogue were bad, certainly, at a minimum, you’d expect to see at least one guitar involved in some sort of car chase or heist. I mean look at that movie poster, how could you not? Again, need I remind you that Stunt Rock will make you question all preconceptions and conventions. Are you even real? What is life anyways?
Despite the title, Stunt Rock focuses far more on stunts than rock. Grant Page never even picks up a guitar, and stunts and rock music only come together in the movie’s last five minutes. The plot (?) centers around Grant Page coming from Australia to the US to work on a movie I think. While there, he meets up with his cousin (?) who is a magician in a rock band. If you are not paying super close attention, you may miss the fact that this band has a name (Sorcery). Grant’s name gets mentioned more times than the word “the,” but magic-based Sorcery only gets name-checked maybe 3 times.
Sorcery are maybe the only redeeming part of the film. The musicianship is pretty fantastic, although the vocals are very hit-or-miss. Weirdly the singer sounds great on those Halford-esque high notes, but he’s not great when it comes to the lower register. The band’s sound is a mix of Thin Lizzy and early Judas Priest, with the stage antics of Gabriel-era Genesis. Those stage antics are where Cousin Page comes in. Cousin Page plays The Prince of Darkness, who constantly battles some other dude playing Merlin the Wizard. Their battles are corny yes, but compared to the rest of the film, they’re pretty entertaining. That’s a testament to how boring this movie is… Anyways, these antics often occur during absolutely shredding guitar and keyboard solos. Oh right, I forgot to mention that the keyboardist is in a gimp mask the whole time. Silly!
Sorcery’s performances mainly serve as filler between Grant Page’s stuntman shenanigans. During one of his stunts he gets injured and sent to the hospital. This makes prime time news because you see, stuntmen are the center of the universe. The story catches the attention of a female journalist, who decides to make Page’s super compelling story the subject of her latest article. I don’t know if they ever said her name, so I’ll just refer to her as Journal Liz. Sparks fly between Grant and Liz. Well apparently. They have virtually zero chemistry but they end up kissing in the last minute of the movie.
During Page’s time on set we are introduced to two other characters: a diva actress named Monique and her controlling agent whose mother did not love him enough to give him a name. Monique is the only character with a semblance depth and any sort of arc. She goes from not respecting the craft of stunt performance to wanting her agent to sign stuntmen and even performing a whole stunt herself! Wowee! The agent is the film’s villain. I guess. He’s on screen for a total of maybe five minutes. He is very dismissive of and condescending to stuntmen, and eventually gets pushed into a pool for being a dick. Justice is a dish best served wet!
If there’s one nice thing I can say about this film, it’s the great camera work. The stunt scenes were filmed very professionally and Sorcery’s performances were shot in a big classic 70’s rock style. The editing and direction are absolute travesties though. There are a TON of cutscenes. Half of these don’t seem to serve any purpose either. It’s unclear whether these scenes are from better movies or specifically shot for the film’s canon. At one point there’s a really sick montage of hang gliding scenes. At another a bunch of cuts of cop cars crashing into each other is thrown in. These are only shown because someone mentioned like the wind or a car tire or something, and have no bearing on the plot whatsoever. Oh there’s also a bunch of cuts of dudes on fire – dudes rock! The other half come with narration, usually by Journal Liz, to read a selection from the Wikipedia pages on stunts and Grant Page. Very useful information indeed, more films should take this ripped-from-the-dictionary approach to dialogue…
This haphazard mashing of stunts and rocks evokes a primal instinct in the viewer. Do remember being a kid, when your mom had her friend over and you wanted to show them both your Thomas the Tank Engine toy AND your Power Rangers action figure? That’s essentially what Stunt Rock is. The film holds tight to that budding sense of confusion and coagulates it with the raw confidence and unrestrained ego of a man who cums at the mere sound of his own name.
Would I recommend this movie? I’ll respond to that question with another question: what even is a movie? Stunt Rock is an experience. It’s challenging. It’s provocative. It’s definitely a thing. Next time you see some goober coyly post “soooo I did a thing,” just assume they made Stunt Rock 2 and run like hell. But I digress. If this review somehow compelled you to watch this movie, well, I can’t tell you what to do. Fortunately, this movie is really hard to find (at least in the US). Anyways, I hope you enjoyed my first ever movie review. I guess this would be the part where some whippersnapper of a movie reviewer would close things out with a memorable quote from the movie, but this movie didn’t really have any. Instead, I will just gracefully bow out and leave you to ponder the meaning of life – enjoy your existential crisis! Goodbye.