Rolling Thunder (1977)

Genres - Action, Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Action Thriller, Melodrama  |   Run Time - 99 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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John Flynn's turgid action movie is sometimes compared to the masterful Taxi Driver due to its vet-vigilante protagonist and the presence of scribe Paul Schrader, but the two films have nothing else in common. Schrader was reportedly unhappy with the final version of a script he had hoped to direct, and it's not difficult to see how he would have liked the minimalist dialogue and symbolic carnage to have been treated. In a film whose title invokes the popular tag for B-52 bombing runs in Vietnam, Rane (William Devane) and his vet buddy, Vohden (Tommy Lee Jones), are so badly scarred by their wartime experience that they're unable to communicate with their families or anyone else in their small flag-waving Texas town. Even given the men's problems, the script does nothing to make their relationships credible, and many scenes are so badly underlit that reaction shots are rendered indecipherable. When Rane and his family are finally attacked, one is almost relieved because he finally has a response. Despite its manifold flaws, the film features excellent work by Devane and Jones, who manage to suggest infinite pain with little dialogue. Those for whom violence and torture have limited appeal have been forewarned.