Rolling Thunder John Flynn

Rolling Thunder John Flynn
7
Given how bloody and violent a revenge tale it ultimately becomes, it's little wonder that Quentin Tarantino has declared Rolling Thunder among his favourite films. As with many cult movies, it may not be quite as great as fervent supporters like Tarantino believe, but it still succeeds as a gritty, unflinching examination of Vietnam vets coming home to a place that isn't quite as they remembered it. Major Charles Rane (William Devane) is welcomed back to San Antonio as a hero after spending years being tortured in a POW camp. He is stoic and taciturn, a man of so few words that it's as if he fears opening his mouth to talk would risk all of the unspeakable horrors he experienced unwittingly spilling out. His young son, only a baby when Charles left, barely remembers him at all and his wife, suspecting the worst for her husband, has moved on with Cliff (Lawrason Driscoll), a local cop. When Charles is presented at a town ceremony with thousands of silver dollars for his sacrifice, it's not long before a group of thieves from Mexico come looking for the money. Aside from having his wife and child killed in the robbery, Charles also loses a hand when it's horrifically forced into a garbage disposal. With a new metal hook in its place and the help of his self-proclaimed "groupie," Linda (Linda Haynes), and later fellow Vietnam prisoner Johnny (Tommy Lee Jones), Charles sets about enacting retribution for the crime. Without a great deal of plot or dialogue, what's left is less a study of a character than post-war psyche, as Devane is forced to do much of the heavy lifting with only a vacant stare. By the climactic shoot-out though, the film is more concerned with using the bloodbath to titillate rather than deal with its serious ramifications. A making-of included on the disc helps shed some light on these conflicting intentions, with Tommy Lee Jones feeling that none of the changes made to Paul Schrader's screenplay by writer Heywood Gould actually helped. All of the cast and crew still look back fondly on the film and are rightfully proud of the cult status it's earned, but it's hard not to imagine what Schrader's original vision would have looked like, one that sees the two vets' trip to Mexico for revenge as an even deeper allegory for Vietnam itself. (Shout! Factory)