Sunday, July 13, 2008

ROLLING THUNDER - at last, this Wednesday!

One macho motherfucker.

OK, so for anyone who didn't get the news of the switch in time and showed up to see ROLLING THUNDER only to be confronted by Al Adamson's FEMALE BUNCH last week: I am sorry. It was an unavoidable circumstance. I hope you at least enjoyed the movie. It's not in the same league as ROLLING THUNDER but it has its pleasures.

But ROLLING THUNDER is pretty close to a true, indisputable classic. It starts with powerful subject matter and fills it in with so much human impact that by the end of the film you're exhilarated and exhausted at the same time.

The screenplay, from Paul Schrader and, especially Heywood Gould, is almost one of the greatest ever and John Flynn (THE OUTFIT) should have become one of the heavy-hitting macho director guys in the vein of Ford, Huston and Peckinpah, but he happened to hit the boards when the concept of macho was hitting the skids, leaving Mad Sam as the last true chronicler of American machismo (and its total impracticality).

The acting is rough and tough. William Devane, who stayed busy on TV and impressed in smaller roles, is a raw nerve, seemingly imperturbable behind his aviator shades but inside desperately burning all his life energy to simply function after returning from 7 years in a North Vietnamese POW camp. He's tougher than he has any right or need to be.

Tommy Lee Jones, as one of Devane's squad has an even harder time adjusting than Devane (who advises him to "put your sunglasses on"). It's an equally complex role and Jones the actor would embark on a 30 year plus journey of being mostly great but mostly underappreciated.

Linda Haynes is the biggest surprise of all as the 29 year old party girl who carried a torch for Devane throughout his captivity, she describes herself as a "groupie" which of course is a word that's "after (Davane's) time." Even though she's been passing the years in the states, she's as dead inside as Devane, and the two recognize each other as kindred spirits. She and Devane have a phenomenal scene together taking target practice by a gully that you will always remember. Like most of the best scenes in the movie, it was written by Heywood Gould but I'll address that, and reproduce my correspondence with Gould, in my post screening writeup.

By the way, William Devane is very enjoyable in Hitchcock's last film FAMILY PLOT, which most everyone hates but I like a lot. He also played Austin legend John Henry Faulk in a TV movie version of Faulk's great FEAR ON TRIAL, which I'd really like to see.

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