Movies can tell us a lot about the political and social climate of the times in which they were made.
The 70s for instance, as evidenced by movies like this, Death Wish, and Dirty Harry was a time when there was a lot of right wing backlash against the previous decade bubbling up. We had a return of the old masculine heroes of yesteryear, only they were combined with the counter culture anti-heroes of the 60s who didn’t give a damn what the audience thought of them, only now instead of fighting for an identity or freedom ala Cool Hand Luke or the hippies in Easy Rider, they carried great big 44 Magnum Pistols and just wanted to blow your sorry scumbass ass to hell and gone.
Rolling Thunder is a good movie that is dismal to watch. The main character (William Devane) is a returning Vietnam vet who gets the “baby killer” treatment when he comes back home, and since this is a revenge movie, finds himself the target of a home invasion/robbery during which members of his family are murdered in front of him.
This sets up the rest of the movie where he goes on the hunt with his best friend, played by a young Tommy Lee Jones, and kills them off one by one, until the big finale in a whorehouse where he engages in wholesale slaughter.
I thought Devane was a very low key presence in this movie, which neither added nor subtracted from it. Switch him and Tommy Lee Jones’ roles and I think you would have a much more interesting movie.
Jones’ would go on to make a classic modern revenge movie, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, which while preserving the masculinity was a much more thoughtful film on the journey and process of revenge.
Rolling Thunder gets a three out of five: SATISFYING.