Rolling Thunder is directed by John Flynn and written by Paul Schrader and Heywood Gould. It stars William Devane, Tommy Lee Jones, Linda Haynes, James Best, Dabney Coleman and Luke Askew. Music is scored by Barry de Vorzon and cinematography by Jordan Cronenweth.
When Major Charles Rane (Devane) returns from being a POW in Vietnam, he finds the world is a different place. His wife has been unfaithful and wants a divorce, his son doesn't know him and not everybody appreciates his service in the war effort. When some sympathetic town citizens hold a ceremony and give him 2,555 silver dollars, it signals the start of violence that takes Rane into a new war......
I'm just gonna sit here.
When Quentin Tarantino proclaimed Rolling Thunder as one of his favourite movies of all time, it was both a blessing and a curse. It's great that this undervalued and under seen gem hit the press notices, even getting a new Blu-ray release in the process, but with Quentin's name comes the millstone of exploitation and cheap flea-pit cinemas showing grubby movies. Nothing wrong with that, many film fans, myself included, enjoy 70s exploitation films and spent time in the afore mentioned sticky carpeted and tobacco perfumed theatres. But Rolling Thunder deserves better than being part of this filmic cultured arc, to have interested new parties seek it out purely with expectation of a revenge driven bloodbath movie.
You learn to love the pain.
John Flynn's movie is one of the finest of all the revenge driven movies out there. It has rich characterisation, thoughtful insight into the pain and tragedy of post war adjustment. The performances of Devane (brilliantly understated) and Jones (haunted) really add a bite to the narrative, turning in sensitive portrayals of men who left their souls in the bowels of some Hanoi hell. Thus when the violence is unleashed in a whirl of shotgun blasts and hook handed carnage, it isn't for gratification, it's an extension of a tortured or guilty psyche. There's genuine realism in the characters during the build up, with director Flynn taking his time to let the plot unfold. From the Rane and Vohden family homes, to Linda Haynes' love interest, reactions ring true without histrionics.
It's your time, boy.
The violence is well orchestrated, especially for the finale played out suitably in a grubby brothel. Rest assured bloodhounds, you are well and truly catered for here as well. It's the perfect blend of exploitation and intelligence, with a good sense of time and place too. There's flaws for sure as some credibility is invariably stretched, there's a whiff of misogyny in the air (though I don't think it is intentional, just ignorance by the writers) and some may find the stereotypes afforded the Mexicans as being unappetising. But flaws be damned, this is a cracker-jack movie, a modern day Western just waiting to be discovered by a new generation of film fans. 8.5/10
Blu-ray print is good, though some scenes come out as being underlit. Extras are sparse unless you only really dig commentaries.