DVD Review: Rolling Thunder

Directed by John Flynn
Starring William Devane, Tommy Lee Jones & Linda Haynes

Newly liberated American P.O.Ws, Major Charles Rane (Devane) and his friend, Sergeant First Class John Vohden (Jones), return home to San Antonio, Texas to a hero’s welcome. Both endured eight years of physical and mental torture in a POW camp but nothing Major Rane endured under the cruel hand of Charlie will come close to the ordeal waiting for him at home. Rane steps back into the bosom of his family to find his wife in love with another man and his beloved son no longer remembers him. Now that Rane is back home, he has become a different kind of prisoner – a hostage to the spectres of the torture and isolation he endured as a POW that still haunt him.

When the scales of fate tip to tragedy, Rane, by his own code or twisted sense of pride, is forced to dispatch is own justice, with the help of Linda (Haynes), a lost girl with a heart of gold, and friend Vohden, on the men who maimed him, murdered his family and stole $2555 in silver dollars that he was given by his State as a gift for his service. Three people verses a gang of blood thirsty killers does sound like a foolish suicide mission but to Rane’s own mind, he himself is a walking dead man – he died the day he was taken prisoner.

Major Rane is John McCain gone Death Wish. But with a script by Paul Schrader (who had just come off Taxi Driver) this movie wasn’t going to be a standard issue delishiously crude and bombastic exploitation actioner. The first act of this movie is a powerful drama about a soldier re-adjusting to civilian life with the din of war still ringing in his ears. Pulpy action director John Flynn imbues the drama with an atmosphere of quiet menace by dropping in snippets of flashbacks of Rane’s horrfic torture and a soundtrack that creates an taut overpowering tenseness. William Devane’s performance is of course essential to all this. Given that he’s playing a career military man who plays his cards close to his medal-covered chest, Devane turns silence into a symphony, turning in a deft and heartrending taking us through Rane’s difficult return to a very changed family.

When the shit does hit the fan, Rane and the movie gets it’s no-nonsense revenge flick on in time. Flynn revels in every badass one-liner, naked torso and shotgun blast. It’s the long awaited dessert to the savory drama we’ve been fed and boy is it sweet. You can most definitely see why Quentin Tarantino said of this film: ”Most films disappoint, Rolling Thunder KICKS ASS

Now available for the first time on DVD and Blu-Ray only in the UK (still bafflingly unavailable in America) and any fans of Grindhouse 70’s American cinema should snap it out.


Extras: Original Trailer and TV Spot, a passionate but misinformed ‘Trailers from Hell’ commentary from Eli Roth and an interview with Linda Haynes – the highlight of which is a story of when Quentin Tarantino offered her a comeback role on an episode of ER which he directed but she declined because she had retired from acting and also had no idea who Tarantino was.


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