Saturday, March 03, 2007


I finally sat down last night with a friend and watched ROLLING THUNDER. Dan Taylor (a.k.a The Hungover Gourmet) was nice enough to send me a tape of the recent letterboxed cable broadcast and I cannot thank him enough.

If ever a film lived up to its fan hype this is it. Expertly scripted (Paul Shrader), played and directed (John Flynn) it moves carefully and confidently from its deliberate, thoughtful opening third to its violent pivot point and straight on into vengeance. Devane is one of those character actors I never had much use for in my younger years (he looked strange) that I find I respect much more as I get older. He's damned good every time and has a world weary gravitas that a lot of actors would pay money to own. Here he's perfect as the conflicted and confused man returning home after being a POW for 7 years in
Vietnam. Seemingly lost in his old life with his marriage soured because of infidelity he begins trying to reconnect with his son. When his wife explains that she wants a divorce he accepts it with little comment. He remains removed from emotion and distant to all but his son as he struggles to just be able to sleep at night and forget the tortures of his imprisonment. He only really comes to life when given a mission and an outlet for his rage and frustration.

Tommy Lee Jones (looking YOUNG) plays Devane’s fellow POW and gives a fantastic performance in the same vein. Obviously very uncomfortable with his family, unable to relate to them anymore he springs at the chance to do something physical. Both men seem to relish the opportunity to have a clear, defined enemy they can get their hands on – something they were denied as long term prisoners. His simple calm response to Devane's request for help in tracking down the bad guys is a classic moment in movies.

I was impressed with the real feel of the family problems and the relationships between the wife's lover and Devane's character. These are not overblown movie types spouting BS to push easy buttons in the viewer but realistic people dealing with a complex situation. It says a lot that I don't see this kind of strong writing about emotions in most thrillers these days. This is well done, intelligent stuff whereas things these days are usually dialed up to 'cartoon'. This film is an action story but still shows a subtle understanding of people and their realities. Believable, sharp and effective- a great film right down to it’s violent, bloody ending.

Movies like ROLLING THUNDER make me long for a return to the filmmaking style of the 70s. Are those skills lost? Or have they been bred out of the system?
Once again- Thank you Dan. I owe you big.

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