Days of Thunder

Days of ThunderTop Gun Days of Thunder, from director Tony Scott, is a pretty decent action/drama movie about a plucky, hotshot fighter jet pilot NASCAR driver, played by Tom Cruise, and his bitter journey to exorcize a few personal demons in the cockpit on the race track while trying to balance a newfound romance with a pretty astrophysicist doctor.  Of course there’s a healthy dose of competition from his frenemy-with-a-clever-nickname Iceman Rowdy, and a healthy dose of high-speed flight race scenes, a crash or two, and enough close calls to have your nails digging into the seat.

Ok, so it’s not the most original movie out there, but Days of Thunder is a perfectly passable by-the-numbers late-80′s dude flick.  Tom Cruise plays our unfortunately-named protagonist Cole Trickle with all the vintage Tom Cruiseness you could hope for.  He knows he’s one of the biggest stars in the world, and from time to time the frame can barely contain the sheer amount of smugness on display.  Filling out the cast is a couple of acting giants–the Obi-Wan Kenobi to Trickle’s Luke Skywalker, Nicole Kidman as the no-way-she’s-old-enough-to-have-completed-med-school doctor, and even some B-listers like Randy Quaid, Cary Elwes, and Fred Thompson.  The movie is kind of a who’s who for movie stars in 1990, and for that reason alone, Days of Thunder is worth watching.

Days of Thunder: Cruise, Kidman

Now that's how you do product placement.

The basic idea here is as predictable as one would expect, and if you’re in doubt even for one moment how things will end up when the credits roll, it’s back to movie-watching-101 for you.  Our hero Trickle (it’s hard to even write that without laughing out loud) starts off as a disgraced race car driver eager to get back in the saddle, while his would-be mentor wants nothing to do with race car driving anymore.  But sure enough, Cruise is soon cruising (get it?  No?  You didn’t watch the trailer, did you?) around NASCAR tracks at 190 mph, dodging tires and sparring with rednecks for the elusive checkered flag.  His old mentor gets on his case for taking too many risks, and–you guessed it–Cruise’s newfound racing career is brought to a sudden halt–a trickle, if you will–when he crashes one too many times and ends up in the hospital along with racing nemesis Rowdy.

Will the two solve their differences?  Will the pretty doctor fall for the crazy scientologist?  Will Robert Duvall ever have a role as good as Tom Hagen?  It’s not rocket science, people.  It’s not even finger painting.  But it is actually a lot of fun.  Watching stock cars zoom around, crash into walls, and explode into tiny bits is a joy to behold, and it’s fun watching these A-Listers overact all the way to the bank.  Tony Scott’s fast-paced overblown directorial style is in full effect here, and as long as there’s a bucket of popcorn and 12-pack of Mello Yello handy there’s really nothing no way not to mindlessly enjoy Days of Thunder.

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  1. I’ve never seen “Days of Thunder,” maybe I will have to watch it someday.

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