Major Charles Rane comes back from the war and is given a number of gifts from his hometown because he is a war hero. Some greedy thugs decide that they want to steal a number of silver dollars from him. In the process they also manage to kill his wife and son and destroy his hand. The Major wants revenge so he enlists the help of his war buddy Johnny to meet the thugs in a final showdown.Written by
Josh Pasnak <email@example.com>
The hair of most of the military personnel shown in the film, including that of Major Rane and his friend MSgt Vohden, is too long for military standards. Especially noticeable is the excessively long hair on the two-striper airman who opens the door of Rane and Vohden's executive jet after it lands at the beginning of the film. See more »
So many films these days attempt to emulate the classic grindhouse feel of '70s cinema: tough, rough around the edges and completely hardass. Most of them fail in the attempt, coming across as pastiches rather than throwbacks. Sometimes it requires us to revisit those films of old to remind ourselves of what it is that makes them so great.
I first caught ROLLING THUNDER on television about a decade ago. It was one of those late-night showings, and the film stayed with me, at least two scenes in particular: the kitchen scene and the climax. Both were incredibly powerful and just wouldn't leave my mind. I was annoyed to find out that you couldn't buy it on DVD for many years, so it resided at the back of my mind where I continued to remember how great it was and wished for it to be one day released.
Well, my wish came true, and you can now buy this film, remastered on Blu-ray no less. And it still holds up as a lean, mean, action thriller, boasting extremely tough performances, a script that emphasises realism above all else, and some outstanding action sequences. One of the reasons that it works so well is that, aside from the action/revenge plotting, like FIRST BLOOD and THE DEER HUNTER it's really a film about Vietnam veterans attempting to readjust themselves in a 'normal' world.
William Devane – one of those familiar faces in cinema and the type to rarely get a leading role – delivers a strong turn as Major Charles Rane, a guy trying to fit into a world he no longer recognises. Devane's performance in ROLLING THUNDER is all about subtlety. If we're lucky, we'll see a flicker of emotion play out across his features, or a certain split-second look in his eyes. Other than that, he's never less than gruff and able.
The revenge plot line is very well portrayed in a minimalist style. Paul Schrader's screenplay is excellent, as was his one for TAXI DRIVER, and the two films have much in common: not least insanely violent climaxes which really pay off on all the suspense and drama that's built up previously. Another source of greatness is Tommy Lee Jones, featuring here in a rather minor supporting role that nonetheless shows off the kind of laconic talent that would later make him a big name in Hollywood. Some modern viewers might find the pacing a little subdued and sedate by modern standards, but they'd be missing the point: for a film that's essentially a gun drama, ROLLING THUNDER works all because of that subtlety.
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