23 August 2004 | bob the moo
Painting by numbers produces an average film despite the cast
Eager for a winning formula, team owner Tim Daland puts together the inexperienced but naturally talented Cole Trickle and the retired but skilled mechanic Harry Hogge to hopefully bounce off each other to create a winning combination. After the expected bumps and friction between the two, they seem to blend well and start winning races. However, a major accident between Cole and his main rival, Rowdy Burns, puts them both in the hospital under the care of the professional and leggy Dr Lewicki. But will Cole be able to overcome the physical and mental scars that he got.
The comedian Rich Hall did a great routine once where he summed up the films of Tom Cruise by basically saying that each of them involves him being great at his job (pilot, bartender, driver) before suffering a crisis of confidence but meeting a beautiful lady who helps him over it in time to come good hilarious in the telling because he was right and, true to form, Days of Thunder sets its stall out in the same way. That the plot is formulaic (father/son stuff, macho posturing, love interest, final big race etc) and it is a bit tiring at times because it is nothing new and it produces large sags during the film. The father/son stuff is OK if hackneyed but the romance is so sudden and fake that it left me cool and never engaged once. The racing stuff is fun, noisy and fast which I suppose is what most of its audience want; but this is still not a great action movie but kudos to Scott for managing to make a load of cars going round a circular track appear exciting.
The cast is more impressive on paper than they are in reality. Cruise plays his usual character and does it with no real charm or ability. He is trading off his fame here and his macho nonsense is rather tiresome. Kidman may have been Cruise's offscreen partner but viewers of this film will have seen their divorce coming because they have zero chemistry and she is poor throughout. It's not all her fault though, the script gives her nothing to work with. Thank god then, for Robert Duvall; he may be playing a fairly clichéd character but he does it well and steals every scene from his pretty but empty co-star. Support is good from Quaid and Rooker but Ewles is given too little time to make anything but a negative impression and Reilly had yet to prove his versatility and doesn't do it here.
Overall this is very much painting by the numbers in many regards. The plot is easy and lacks any sort of spark or innovation meaning that, when the cars are off the screen, it is easy for the film to get dull. The action scenes are OK but, as with F1, I find many motor sports to be dull and didn't get drawn into the predictable races as much as I wanted to. The script gives the cast nothing to really work with, and only Duvall comes out with any real dignity even if he has a cliché as opposed to a real person to play. This has all the failings you would expect and the end result of so little imagination is an average film that is watchable but no more than that.