There’s a strange alchemy at work in Rolling Thunder (Flynn, 1977). We start with two subgenres that really flourished in the seventies – the Vietnam homecoming and the revenge mission. William Devane turns up that tension by giving as tightly controlled a performance as we’ve seen from him. Tommy Lee Jones perfects his thousand yard stare. Linda Haynes seizes the day even though deep down she knows better. All of these elements combine to make a film that’s a treat for fans of both the grindhouse and the arthouse. The result is a searing document of the times and, almost by accident, one of the greatest films of the decade.
When Paul Schrader first wrote Rolling Thunder, he had something different in mind. He felt the filmmakers turned it into something fascist that he never intended. You can take a look and decide for yourself. To me, it retains its complications without having to travel the darker roads in Schrader’s original draft. In fact, it feels odd to suggest that it pulls any punches. With the explosive violence and victims that include a child, it is firmly rooted in exploitation territory. And that’s without even going into the deep, dark psychology of how much Devane’s character has come to love the rope. Take this ride with Charlie and experience an America where the only men left are crazy. I promise exploitation thrills and an incisive look at one of our country’s most turbulent eras.
What you’ll find in this episode: hook sharpening, shotgun sawing, crushes and cactus flowers, when coming home is no relief, and bad times at the border.
Links and Recommendations:
Check out Rolling Thunder on IMDB.
Ericca’s further viewing pick of Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance.
Cole’s further viewing pick of Convoy.
An overview of the homecoming experience for Vietnam veterans.
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