Vietnam veteran Ray Hicks gets conned into helping his buddy John Converse smuggle some heroin, only to wind up on the lam with John's wife when the deal goes sour. Written by
Alan Sepinwall <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Very depressing but powerful anti-war tale, despite being occasionally muddled
1978 saw the release of many anti-Vietnam films. While both "Coming Home" and "The Deer Hunter" were big successes commercially and critically, "Who'll Stop the Rain" was unfortunately overlooked for some reason, which is a shame. Despite being set in America and marketed originally as an action thriller, its an effective portrayal of the mental strain of veterans returning from the horrific war. Its not completely successful - occasionally the screenplay is a bit muddled and sometimes the treatment of such disturbing material is too genteel. Still, the story is so compelling it manages to nail its point home by the end. The conclusion in particular is downbeat to the point of sheer nihilism.
What makes the film work so well, in addition to a good script, is the acting. All around, the entire cast gives fantastic performances. There's not a single weak note in the ensemble. Nick Nolte, an often ridiculed performer, shows he can be a remarkably powerful actor if he applies himself. Tuesday Weld is not as glamorous as she usually is, which helps her create one of her most compelling roles. Michael Moriarty is good also as the morally ambiguous character who manages to be sympathetic by the end. The villains in the cast are all unlikable but also well developed, especially the two thugs who show signs of changing their hearts. The direction by Karel Reisz isn't anything masterful on an aesthetic level, but it definitely gets the job done. "Who'll Stop the Rain" is a powerful and intelligent film, a kind of movie that would only be released by a mainstream studio in the 70s and would be extinct in the next decade of American cinema being overrun and dumbed down by Jerry Bruckenheimer. (8/10)
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