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Buddy Van Horn
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Seven years after a daring bank robbery involving an anti-tank gun used to blow open a vault, the robbery team temporarily puts aside their mutual suspicions to repeat the crime after they are unable to find the loot from the original heist, hidden behind a school chalkboard. The hardened artilleryman and his flippant, irresponsible young sidekick are the two wild cards in the deck of jokers. Written by
(at around 1h 0 mins) Mario stops by to see the boys, and gets out of his car in a pouring rain storm. The area behind him shows clear blue sky with bright sunshine. Seconds later, it's overcast; still later in the scene it's partly sunny; then overcast again. See more »
How times change. Back in 1974, after paying his dues co-writing Silent Running and Magnum Force, Michael Cimino was one of the most promising new directors on the scene thanks to his directorial debut Thunderbolt and Lightfoot. In 1978 he was an Oscar winner whose place in movie history seemed assured by The Deer Hunter. Two years later he was the poster boy for directorial excess and hubris in the wake of the unjustly maligned Heaven's Gate. Now he's unemployable.
Thunderbolt's once-sterling reputation seems to have fallen victim alongside Cimino's career. It's become one of the less-remembered films from the days when Clint Eastwood ruled the box-office yet it holds up as one of the best pictures of its over-rated decade, managing the neat trick of both delivering what the audience wants and subverting their expectations at the same time. Eastwood plays a crook on the run from ex-partners in crime George Kennedy and Geoffrey Lewis (often hysterically funny here) who teams up with Jeff Bridges' extrovert drifter to retrieve the loot from a previous robbery only to find his old accomplices tagging along and things naturally not going at all to plan. It's an almost perfectly judged mixture of comedy and action with both feet firmly on the ground despite the more absurd moments in a way that would be almost unthinkable today. There's a real rapport between the outstanding cast and an affection for the characters that adds to the impact of the very Seventies ending not only is the central pairing of Eastwood's old hand and Bridges' cocksure kid far more convincing and genuinely affecting than it has any right to be, but Kennedy and Lewis' untrustworthy partners in crime are beautifully drawn too.
Cimino handles the mood swings adeptly and even injects a subtle undercurrent of sexual ambiguity that never gets in the way of the entertainment. While his direction is bang on target - there's a great use of mid-Western landscape too - it's the strength of his script that keeps the film surprisingly fresh today. It's basically a road movie crossed with a heist movie, but Cimino throws in so many unexpected and quirky left turns that catch you off guard that you never get the feeling that you're going over the same old ground. This was a terrific movie in 1974, and if anything it's an even better one today. Just remember; never accept a lift from a man with a raccoon in the passenger seat and a trunk full of bunnies! Sadly the DVD transfer isn't great, but it is in the original 2.35:1 widescreen ratio.
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