Film Review: Thunder Road

Seattle is currently hosting our International Film Festival, and on Friday late afternoon I went to see Thunder Road. Despite the odd hour — 3:45pm — the house was filled.

Thunder Road is a quirky film, referred to as a “dramatic comedy”, about a cop whose life is falling apart. The film opens at the funeral of his mother. His eulogy, which takes the opening 10 minutes, is funny, shocking, sad, a little scary in the way that watching someone totally decompensate is scary.

There’s no happy ending in this movie, no letup to the unrelenting downward spiral of the cop’s life. The film is a bit hard to watch, and yet in the end, it’s curiously moving.

SIFF asks movie viewers to rate each film, on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being high. I think that any film chosen to be in the festival gets at least a 3. I rated Thunder Road a 4, because it was better than getting through by the skin of its teeth. But watching such an unrelenting crackup isn’t, for me, a film star 5. If you want to know more about heartland despair, this is the film for you. If you want to walk out with a glimmer of “but life can get better”, not so much.

But in “Thunder Road,” Jim Cummings, who also wrote and directed the film, doesn’t cover anything up. He exposes the character he’s playing like an X-ray. He rips the band-aid off a certain kind of contempo middle-class heartland despair, and the result is an altogether uncanny small drama. At “Thunder Road,” you’ll giggle at moments, and you’ll also be moved, but mostly you’ll know the precise crazy-sane reality of who this man is.”

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