With the recent blu-ray release of Rolling Thunder courtesy of Studio Canal I thought it was high time I reacquainted myself with Major Charles Rane and his hook-handed vigilantism in the bordellos and bars of Mexico. For the last ten to fifteen years the film has been languishing in the sulphur pits of distribution hell, and in that time it has steadily built itself a cult reputation. This is in no small part due to Quentin Tarantino and his gushing masturbatory praise for the film. The fact that Tarantino is a big fan is just one indication of the films simplistic juvenilia. The second is a screenplay by Paul Schrader which completely recycles the themes and preoccupations of his earlier effort Taxi Driver (1976), but chooses to omit questions of social and political fragmentation in favour of a highly personalised odyssey of violence and revenge. Although both films share a number of themes and plot points (for example both films conclude with a blood drenched finale in a whorehouse) Taxi Driver possesses an awareness and intelligence that is entirely lacking in Rolling Thunder. If the two films were relatives then Rolling Thunder would be the immature and irritating younger brother. The film has the feel of a quick exercise for Mr. Schrader, certain aspects feel underdeveloped, and certain aspects just make no sense at all. For example why on earth would a quartet of hard nosed bastards torture Charles Rane, and then shoot his wife and kid before his very eyes, all for a lousy $2,000? It all seems a little over the top and unnecessary; the plot hinges on a number of absurd contrivances, the most ridiculous of which sees Rane end up with a hook instead of a hand!
© Shaun Anderson 2012