In an alternate world, Russia and the U.S. nearly destroyed each other in nuclear war in 1957, with only a couple of remaining outposts of civilization left. The most prominent is Lost Vegas, ruled by Elvis Presley. However, "after 40 rockin' years, the King is dead."
The position of King is now open, and a katana-wielding guitarist named Buddy is out to take the throne. Along the way, though, he has to fight off the other pretenders, Communist bowlers, the entire Russian Army, and Death in the form of... Slash.
Also along the way, he has to deal with a Tagalong Kid that ends up teaching him that being the King is about more than rocking and fighting.
This movie has examples of:
- After the End - Complete with Mad Max style neo-barbarians.
- Alternate History, the intro text:In 1957, the bomb dropped, and the Russians took over what was America.After forty rockin' years, The King is dead.Every guitar picking, sword swinging opportunist, including Death himself, hears the call echoing across the wastelands.
- Arrow Catch: When Death's minions (who all use bows with unlimited arrows) chances upon Buddy when he's separated from his sword, he appears to just be dodging their A-Team Firing. When he gets up from one of his rolls, however, he throws away a bundle of arrows in each hand.
- Artistic License History: Buddy Holly was born in 1936 so he would have been over sixty by the time of the movie. Of course, the ending could well mean the Buddy of the film is a Legacy Character.
- Badass and Child Duo: Buddy and The Kid hit the major notes - stoic Anti-Hero type who first meets the orphaned child when he saves him from death, cynicism slowly melts away as the child becomes closer, the kid helps out with some support roles, and the Badass has a Heroic Sacrifice to save the child at the end.
- Cannibal Clan - Who look and (try to) act like a stereotypical Father Knows Best-style '50's nuclear family.
- Captain Ersatz - Buddy and Death are Captain Ersatzes of, respectively, Buddy Holly and Slash.
- Although judging from what we see, Buddy might actually be the real Buddy Holly. Or he may have taken over the mantle, the same way the Kid does for him at the end.
- Dance Battler - Buddy uses dance during his swordfights to, well, swordfight.
- Enemies with Death - Fighting a rock'n'roll sword duel against him? Can't get much more literal.
- The '50s - What's left of society still looks like it, since the nuclear war took place then - and most everywhere is far from recovered even four decades later.
- Gang of Hats: The Pin Pals, a gang of murderous bowlers with bowling ball flails and knives hidden in pins. And the Red Elvises, a communist rock'n'roll band who work for Death.
- The Grim Reaper - happens to look like Slash.
- Heroic BSoD: After Buddy has a rematch with the guy he had earlier taken out with an Offhand Backhand, he realizes that Asskicking Equals Authority isn't the way to become a good person or a good ruler, throwing aside his guitar and sword and saying "I've got to get a new gig."
- I'm a Humanitarian - Buddy tries to drop the kid off with a family like this.
- Invaded States of America: Remnants of the Russian Army are in what is left of the United States. They're not in much better shape than anyone else, though.
- Katanas Are Just Better: The two best swordsmen in the film are Buddy and Death, and both use katanas to cut down everyone in their path, particularly anyone foolish enough to use something that isn't a katana (like the entire Russian army).
- Lawyer-Friendly Cameo - Many of the prominent characters are evocative of various musicians. Most obvious is Buddy for Buddy Holly and Death for Slash.
- The Load - That damn kid. Yeah, yeah, he occasionally does something useful, and The Power of Friendship and all that. Still, notice that every single time Buddy gets hurt, it's directly or indirectly the kid's fault.
- Lampshaded by Death's minions: "The boy! The boy makes him very uncool!"
- Offhand Backhand: One challenger (who might be Ritchie Valens) tries to challenge Buddy at one point when Buddy is more focused on helping the Kid. Buddy does a One-Hit KO with this to show how serious he is.
- One-Man Army - Buddy versus the remnants of the Russian Army. See the quote above if you have any questions as to who won.
- Parental Abandonment - The Kid's mother is killed before his eyes at the beginning; he latches onto Buddy in part because Buddy killed his mother's killer.
- The Power of Friendship - When Death finally catches up to Buddy, Buddy willingly throws away his guitar pick, to concede in his quest to become King. But Death refuses, saying that he's really after what Buddy values most. Realizing that means The Kid, Buddy yells, "You can't have him!" Which leads up to...
- The Power of Rock: ... an epic guitar-playing duel where Death and Buddy try to show who's more worthy of becoming King with sweet guitar solos.
- Rock Me, Amadeus!: An electric-guitar version of Brahms' Hungarian Dance No. 5 shows up in the soundtrack about halfway through.
- Samurai Cowboy: It's a post-apocalypse Western with a samurai Buddy Holly as the protagonist.
- Tagalong Kid: The unnamed Kid, who follows Buddy throughout the film even when Buddy threatens him. He latches onto Buddy when Buddy kills the men who killed The Kid's mother.
- Take Up My Sword - At the end of the movie, the Kid literally takes up Buddy's sword, along with his guitar, suit, and glasses. The final scene of the movie is him literally turning into Buddy as he walks towards Lost Vegas. Straightforward symbolism? Or has Buddy's spirit done this before? Perhaps a Justified trope since the actual Buddy Holly would have been much older by that point.
- Viva Las Vegas! - Lost Vegas is the last great bastion of civilization in the US.
- The Voiceless - The Kid until about halfway through the movie; lampshaded by Buddy immediately and later on.
- Weaksauce Weakness - In an Homage to The Wizard of Oz, Death is killed by getting wet.
- Why Don't Ya Just Shoot Him? - Justified and lampshaded, as the Russians ran out of bullets decades ago.
- You Are Better Than You Think You Are: How the Kid breaks Buddy out of his Heroic BSoD - as a reminder of the good Buddy can do (since Buddy saved his life), he brings back the guitar and sword to Buddy and says, "You can still be a good King."
- You Have Failed Me - Done by Death to some of his minions (local "Soviet Rockabilly Surf Band" The Red Elvises). The Stock Phrase is interrupted when he sees their (nice) shoes, which he takes with him.