starring William Devane, Tommy Lee Jones, Linda Haynes, James Best
screenplay by Paul Schrader and Heywood Gould
directed by John Flynn
by Bryant Frazer Rolling Thunder's reputation was burnished considerably in the 1990s when Quentin Tarantino declared it one of his favourite films. It's a good call; Tarantino owes his career to his long-standing love affair with the grindhouse, and Rolling Thunder is in many ways the quintessence of Hollywood exploitation. Director John Flynn, who made a name for himself with his 1973 adaptation of a Donald E. Westlake novel, The Outift, comes across as an efficient, focused storyteller who pares narrative to the bone. That style of filmmaking really allows (or requires) performance to come to the fore, and in the intense vigilante fantasy Rolling Thunder, both William Devane and Tommy Lee Jones deliver smart and scary interpretations of the soul-damaged protagonist and sidekick, respectively. Flynn certainly wasn't a self-conscious stylist, and he ended up toiling in the gulag of undistinguished action pictures like the 1989 Stallone-in-prison flick Lock Up and the Steven Seagal revenge thriller Out for Justice. He died in 2007, and Rolling Thunder is just remarkable enough that you want to bemoan his anonymity.