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Film / Rolling Thunder

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Major Charles Rane Is Coming Home To War!

A 1970s action thriller directed by John Flynn, cowritten by Paul Schrader, and starring William Devane and Tommy Lee Jones.

It's the story of returning Vietnam War veteran Major Charles Rane (Devane), who has spent the last seven years in a POW camp. He comes home to find his wife has moved on and his son doesn't remember him. His home town is determined to give him a homecoming and presents him with a number of gifts including silver dollars, one for each of his days in captivity. A group of rednecks attempt to steal his money and then murder his wife and son. Major Rane vows revenge...


This movie contains examples of:

  • Ace Pilot: Rane and Vohden were pilots in the war. Consequently, they get derided as No True Scotsmen by a few infantry vets, including one of the villains.
  • Big Bad: "The Texan," leader of the gang that killed Rane's family.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Much more bitter than sweet in context, but at least Rane and Vahlen manage to survive the final shootout (even if greatly injured) while everybody who killed Rane's family (and Cliff) does not.
  • Cool Shades: Both Rane and Vohden wear some pretty awesome Ray-Ban aviators during their killing spree.
  • Corrupt Hick: All of the bad guys. The best thing they can think of when hearing some vet has several silver dollars is to go rob him, torture him, and slaughter his family in front of him. Slim even thinks it's all justifiable because he doesn't consider Rane a "true" Vietnam vet, being a pilot while Slim was infantry.
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  • The Dragon: Automatic Slim is The Texan's Number Two, and he ultimately proves to be Rane's toughest opponent.
  • Fan Disservice: The climax takes place in a brothel with several naked women... while the men there (the rednecks) are getting slaughtered left and right by Rane and Johnny.
  • Firing One-Handed: A necessity for Rane, because he only has one hand.
  • From Camouflage to Criminal: Automatic Slim.
    Slim: I was right there in 'Nam with the rest of you, 'cept I was laying face-down in the mud while you cats was flying over.
  • Graceful Loser: When Rane learns that his ex-wife is engaged to the sheriff, Cliff, he makes no attempts to get her back, and makes tentative attempts to befriend Cliff to stay in his son's life.
  • Groin Attack: Slim is on the receiving end of one during a VERY brutal fight with Rane.
  • Handicapped Badass: Rane gets his hand shredded on a trash disposal by the rednecks when they steal the silver dollars. He uses a hook hand (which he sharpens to a table-and-head penetrating point) for the rest of the film, and loses very little capacity to kick ass because of this.
  • Hook Hand: Rane's artificial limb after his original hand gets shredded. Sharpened to a disemboweling point for extra badassery.
  • Japan Takes Over the World: Discussed in universe:
    Man: That there is the last American factory-made convertible.
    Woman: No more convertibles?
    Man: No ma'am. Those things cost a fortune too.
    Woman: The Japanese'll start making 'em. That's what happens. We'll be buying our Cadillac convertibles from Japan.
  • Revolvers Are Just Better: One of Rane's weapons for his rampage of revenge is a revolver, justified because it's easier to load with his hook hand (which he does in a Lock-and-Load Montage, pushing the cylinder open with the hook and then using the pincer to place the bullets in one at the time while he holds it with his remaining hand).
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Rane's family is killed by some thieving hooligans. Rane doesn't takes it lying down.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Cliff tracks down the rednecks and takes out three of them before Slim kills him.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Major Charles Rane and his buddy Sergeant Johnny Vohden. Most of the film's first act showcases that Rane is not really all right in the head, including such things as getting angry to his wife for "not driving fast enough" (she was speeding at his request and nearly crashed her car), sleeping on the ground in a corner of his garage and re-enacting the torture methods he suffered to "keep his head clear" ("you learn to love the rope", he tells the man who helps him, making him nervous to begin with, and then makes him freak out once he starts to order for him to hurt Rane). Johnny himself has become very stoic and his only response to Rane asking him to help with the climactic shootout is a deadpan "I'll go get my gear".
  • Shotguns Are Just Better: Rane and Johnny use sawed-off shotguns in the final shootout.
  • The Stoic: Rane. He's so shell-shocked that his hand getting shredded makes him have flashbacks to his torture as a POW, but absolutely no external response (like screaming).
  • The Vietnam Vet: Rane, Vohden, and Slim. None of them had an easy time there, but Slim still resents Rane and Vohden for being "flyboys" who didn't have to crawl through the mud like he did.
  • Tranquil Fury: Rane doesn't really do much in the way of acting angry throughout the whole film... his brutality does all of the talking for him.


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