Thursday, December 08, 2005

THUNDERBOLT AND LIGHTFOOT (1974) - Michael Cimino

Michael Cimino’s first directorial effort is a breezy, good old fashioned guys-on-the-run, pulling crimes along the way type of flick. It’s doesn’t stray too far from the familiarities of the genre but has just enough interesting details to keep things interesting.

Clint Eastwood and a young Jeff Bridges play the titular Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, respectively. Thunderbolt’s a master thief hiding out as a preacher in a small Montana church when we first meet him. Lightfoot’s “The Kid." We first meet him taking a Caddie for a test drive and never coming back. The two soon cross paths, literally, as Eastwood is pursued by an old partner looking for cash from a heist that was buried for safe-keeping. They team up, Eastwood more or less taking on the mentor role and Bridges stoking Eastwood’s old larcenous fires, convincing him to pull another bank heist in a small town.
 
This is a story you’ve heard before. But god is in the details, and so is Thunderbolt and Lightfoot. Cimino’s shooting style is one of those details, which takes full advantage of the wide open Montana skies. Eastwood and Bridges’ chemistry works well, Bridges softening up the craggy Ol’ Squint a little more than usual. You rarely see guys in these movies take full-time jobs in the town they’re going to rob before pulling the heist, or hiding out at a drive-in afterwards. And you rarely see an anti-tank gun factor into a robbery. Plus, there’s a great subplot involving money buried in an old school house which I won’t spoil. Thunderbolt and Lightfoot itself is a buried ‘70s gem.

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