Thursday, May 25, 2006
Film Review: THUNDER RUN (1986)
On May 30, 1986, Cannon released its latest action epic, THUNDER RUN. The film received little notice amidst the glut of action films released that month, some with box office superstars (TOP GUN, COBRA) and others without (JAKE SPEED). The film had exciting desert action scenes and a veteran genre stalwart starring, but was unevenly directed by an actor making his debut behind the camera. After being rerun frequently for a few years on Showtime and The Movie Channel, it has rarely been seen on cable since, and has long been out of print in the United States on VHS (though it is on DVD overseas).
So, I know your question is not “why the hell isn’t this on DVD yet”, but rather, “why the hell are you writing about this one, Hal?”
Well, see if this grabs you.
Ruthless international terrorists are out to destroy the American way of life. They will stop at nothing to obtain the deadliest substance on earth. The terrorists are heavily armed, and on a deserted road, only one man stands between them and the plutonium:
Now that I have you hooked.....
THUNDER RUN is an uneven action film, pandering to the teen audience during the first half by devoting a little too much time to John Shepherd, Wallace Langham (billed as Wally Ward) and friends. Oh, there's a bar fight, some old-school street racing, a cop chase, a sex scene (don’t worry, not involving Tuck) and an expensive car gets destroyed, but ideally the RUN through the desert should have started 10 to 15 minutes earlier. It is also painfully obvious that several of the actors are non-professionals (the absolute worst: the cop in hot pursuit of the motorcycle).
Once the preparation for the RUN itself starts, THUNDER RUN becomes one fun, exciting little action flick. Tucker and friends diligently prepare his 18 wheeler for the 200 mile desert trek, and we see the preparation pay off as he wards off evil terrorists led by a scar-faced Alan Rachins (DHARMA AND GREG). The terrorist group numbers in the well, dozens, and they have choppers, motorcycles, grenades, rifles, roadblocks and (best of all) camouflaged Volkswagen beetles with heat-seeking rocket launchers on top. Not to be outdone, Tucker rigs his rig with flamethrowers, ultra-high exhaust stacks, Molotov cocktails and “Space Age Plastic, son”!
Though first-time director Hudson struggles with the pacing, he does a nice job with the action sequences. Writers Charles Davis and Carol Heyer definitely know their vehicles and stunts, but they are out of touch when writing dialogue for teens: Shepherd's friends are worried about "the fuzz" (in 1986??) and have other lines like "I don't want to get stroked by some squirrel who doesn't have the bucks" (seriously: WTF?).