Sunday, July 17, 2011

BLUE THUNDER (1983) - John Badham

If you're an LAPD cop, what's the first thing you do when the U.S. government loans you a highly weaponized helicopter teched-out with the latest in surveillance and recording equipment? You do a fly-by of the local yoga instructor's apartment building so you can spy on her doing extreme nude Hatha moves in her high rise apartment. Ah, Blue Thunder. I had forgotten how much fun you were. I saw you on HBO when I was a kid, and then you were just "that helicopter movie." But now that I've watched you again you will forever be "that helicopter movie written by Dan O'Bannon with Roy Scheider, Malcolm McDowell, and Warren Oates!!!"

I didn't know who any of these guys were back in the mid-80s, so I guess it's understandable I might have been less than impressed. Now I see the blue shining light. This is Roy Scheider doing Travis Bickle as a helicopter pilot instead of a cabbie. It's a more watered down version with repeated goofy flashbacks to some Asian guy (presumably Viet Cong) getting tossed out of his chopper in 'Nam. And, instead of stalking Cybill Shepherd or talking into mirrors, Scheider's psychosis mostly manifests itself in him obsessively checking out his Casio, counting down the number of minutes left in his sanity.

There's also Malcolm McDowell doing his best British prick villain, channeling Clockwork's Alex De Large but in military fatigues instead of a bulbous white codpiece. The guy's sabotaging Scheider right off the bat, already unscrewing bolts in BT's fuselage seconds after he's been introduced. Plus, you get Warren Oates in his final film role as a crusty old commander, barking orders like "If you're walking on eggs, don't hop" and "You're supposed to be stupid, son-- don't abuse the privilege."

The script by Dan O'Bannon (of Alien and Return of the Living Dead) is an efficient, weaponized '80s action movie machine with just enough "Big Brother's watching" hoo-hah to give you something to chew on. Be forewarned: If you live above the third floor, are thinking about doing some nude Kundalini, you may want to crack the curtains first, make sure Blue Thunder's not hovering out there in "stealth mode."

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