Director: Michael Cimino
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Jeff Bridges, George Kennedy, George Lewis
Plot: A drifter (Bridges) rescues a preacher (Eastwood) from an assassination attempt and the pair of them strike up an unlikely bond.
Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, for me, was one of those often talked about movies but one I had no concept of what it was about. It made the opening experience an alienating yet thrilling experience. It opens with Eastwood quietly giving a sermon in a quiet church out in the middle of nowhere. Suddenly a stranger wanders into the church and opens fire. Eastwood flees, his assassin hot on his tail. This sequence is juxtaposed by Jeff Bridges, a younger swankier version than we young’uns are used to yet still maintaining that domineering charisma, stealing a car for kicks. As Bridges soars away from the crime scene, he ends up knocking over Eastwood’s assassin, killing him. Eastwood hitches a lift, rather forcefully, and the two of them head into the horizon, both wanting to get as far away from this place as possible. They end up taking part in several set-pieces of various shenagians, including stealing another car and picking up two women (Bridges uses the best trick to pick up women I have seen in a long time), for sexual purposes. All the while, I am sitting there, doubting Eastwood’s persona of a preacher.
What follows is a highly entertaining crime caper movie. For a long while, there isn’t even really a plot. Eastwood and Bridges slowly learn about each other, while taking part in roguish behaviour and fleeing from more assassins that seem highly pissed off at Eastwood. It is hard to believe that Michael Cimino went on from this to make the dark, depressing Deerhunter. After a while, a resemblance of a plot is introduced, involving an old bank heist with unrecovered money and the potential for a whole new bank robbery. Eastwood, for one, seems more comfortable acting when there is a goal in sight for his character. He comes alive when he is orchestrating a detailled, meticulous crime. It explodes into an exciting crime drama, where a tense job is made all the more difficult when each of the men involved are falling out with each other. While Clint Eastwood is bound to be the name that draws in the crowd, it is Bridges who walks away with MVP. He is never anything less than a source of charismatic energy, his cheeky demeanour always bringing fun to whatever scene he is asked to do. When the script demands the character gets dressed up in drag, Bridges does it without question, his confidence selling the gag for all its worth. But the two of them are best when together, bouncing off of each other as only two acting greats can do when paired together. Eastwood’s calm accentuates Bridge’s energy. The duo works and it is their relationship which holds the film together. Sadly, there is just too much faff in this film to make it as great as it could have been. Whole scenes could have been cut. There is a random joke where Eastwood and Bridges are picked up by a crazy redneck. It is a visually inventive gag, and quite funny if I am being honest, but it belongs in another movie, a nonsensical over-the-top joke if I ever saw one. Also, when the gang commit to robbing a bank, too long is spent in the ‘casing’ part of the movie. We didn’t come here to see Eastwood pose as a workman for half an hour. It is a shame, because if more time could have put into making the actual heist longer and more intricate, this movie could have been up there with the crime classics.
Final Verdict: A light-hearted crime caper which fumbles away greatness, but does allow for Eastwood and Bridges to shine as a great criminal duo.