Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974)

Genres - Comedy Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Buddy Film, Melodrama  |   Run Time - 114 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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An uneasy but ultimately quite rewarding mixture of dramatic and comedic elements, Michael Cimino's first film as a writer/director tempers its symbolic pretensions (it's the sort of film where the ordering of "American Fries" takes on a certain resonance) with a pleasing lightness. Borrowing heavily from other late-'60s/early-'70s songs of the open road (and explicitly referencing Easy Rider and Midnight Cowboy), its pairing of Eastwood's burned out veteran of the Korean War with Bridges' easygoing, hippie-inspired drifter might seem far more heavy handed had other actors played the parts. "Sometimes when there's nothing to do, it's best just to keep movin'," Eastwood says at one point, and it's a tribute to his gravity that the words don't sound tired. It's an interesting twist on his persona that the film forces his character to be uneasy with -- and then extremely fond of -- Bridges' countercultural free spirit. But while Thunderbolt and Lightfoot can only be counted a modest success as another early '70s portrait of a vanishing America, helped considerably by Frank Stanley's striking cinematography and the film's Montana locations, it works even better as an oddball comedy. A scene of George Kennedy and Geoffrey Lewis uncomfortably sharing an unaccommodating ice cream serves as a highlight, and Cimino packs the film with such gags -- in fact, in retrospect, it seems an alternate career path as a comedy director might have served him better. Viewers who enjoy combing films for gay subtext will find plenty to work with here as well.