12 March 2003 | Infofreak
A fascinating character-based comedy drama masquerading as a buddy action movie.
I found 'Thunderbolt And Lightfoot' in the "action" section of my local video store, and a quick glance at the cover and blurb might make you think you're in for a buddy action comedy, like Eddie Murphy et al made in the 1980s and Jackie Chan is making now. This is not entirely correct. While it is essentially a buddy movie and there is "action" in it, it is much more character-driven and episodic than most movies in the genre, and has more in common with forgotten 1970s gems like 'Scarecrow' or 'Fat City', than your typical Clint Eastwood fare from this period. Michael Cimino, who co-wrote the ecological SF sleeper 'Silent Running', and wrote the first (and best) movie in Eastwood's 'Dirty Harry' series, debuts impressively as director here. Eastwood himself is very good as enigmatic thief Thunderbolt, even better is Jeff Bridges who steals the movie as his young protege Lightfoot. Some people dislike this movie because it appears to meander along for no particular reason, but I really enjoyed the interaction between Eastwood and Bridges, who really seem to be having a ball working together. The plot eventually comes together with a robbery involving the two and character actors George Kennedy ('Cool Hand Luke' and Eastwood regular Geoffrey Lewis ('The Way Of The Gun'). I still really wouldn't call this a caper movie (ala 'Rififi', 'The Killing', 'The Anderson Tapes', etc,etc.), it's not as straightforward as that. The robbery plot is almost an excuse for a bunch of enjoyable scenes between the actors, who are all excellent and really play off each other in an entertaining way. Also keep an eye out for bit parts by Gary Busey ('Big Wednesday'), Catherine Bach (Daisy Duke!), Dub Taylor ('The Wild Bunch') and others, especially an unforgettable bit with the legendary Bill McKinney ('Deliverance'), one of the highlights of the movie. There's no way I'm going to argue that 'Thunderbolt And Lightfoot' is a forgotten classic, but it is a lot of fun to watch, it is unpredictable and interesting and features some fine performances, and that is a lot more than you can say for most subsequent Hollywood movies of this type. Recommended to 1970s buffs and anyone who enjoys Jeff Bridges.