A movie more talked about than seen, this grubby, gripping post-Vietnam revenge thriller stars William DeVane as Major Charles Rane, the war hero who finds that life in America can be just as vicious and unpredictable as the jungle. The film’s first half – as Rane tries to settle back into civilian life, and reconnects with his estranged family – is by far the most effective, exploring in intimate, unsettling detail the psychological scars of war.
‘Taxi Driver’ author Paul Schrader’s screenplay is broader and blunter than the Scorsese masterpiece, but effective nonetheless. A climactic last-act road trip on the trail of a gang of murderous home invaders doesn’t work as well – it’s looser, wilder and less intense – until the arrival of a baby-faced Tommy Lee Jones sparks an orgy of bloody violence. At times deeply insightful, at others wholly crass, ‘Rolling Thunder’ is a fascinating curio, the meeting point between realism and exploitation.