Thunder (1983)

ThunderPosterWhat Fabrizio De Angelis was able to accomplish with Thunder (Thunder Warrior in the U.S.) as a first time director is undoubtedly not unprecedented. I’m sure there’s several good examples of directors who make good movies their first time behind the camera, but I’m a man, so all I know is sports. Besides, what Fabrizio did here is more akin to winning a championship as opposed to just making a better than average flick.

Thus, we must look to situations like George Seifert winning the Super Bowl in his first year as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers or even more dramatically, Steve Fisher winning the NCAA basketball tournament with the Michigan Wolverines after becoming head coach right before the tournament started to fully comprehend the sheer glory Fabrizio brought himself with Thunder.

No guy can do it alone though and just like Seifert had Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, and Roger Craig powering his drive to the Super Bowl and Fisher had Glen Rice carrying the load for him through March Madness, Fabrizio surrounded himself with an all-star crew of Italian icons.

Bo Svenson (The Inglorious Bastards) as the sheriff gives American audiences someone they might vaguely recognize from his Walking Tall roles. Antonio Sabato (Seven Blood-Stanined Orchids, Bye Bye Vietnam) lends his pumped up physique to things as an anti-Indian construction worker and even the star of Demons III: The Ogre, Paolo Malco, appears as a reporter hot on the trail of the biggest story of his obviously lackluster career!

But they’re all just so many tassels on the gorgeous jugs of a movie built like a freaking brick shithouse! Because this movie’s tall, tan, muscular body complete with long flowing hair belongs to the most beautiful man in Italian cinema!

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A man who understands that pouty lips to positively die for is all the acting you really need to do when you’re destroying everything you can aim a bazooka at! A man called Trash! A man called War Bus Commando! A man called Mark Gregory!

Gregory is of course famous for his roles in 1990: The Bronx Warriors, War Bus Commando and Ten Zan – Ultimate Mission among others as well as his total inability to convincingly play anything remotely resembling a masculine character despite being usually cast as the most macho bad ass in the universe!

Any doubt as to this fact will quickly be dispelled when you listen to the interview Fred “The Hammer” Williamson gives on the 1990: The Bronx Warriors DVD about Gregory and how he had to be taught how to walk in a manly fashion, but never could get it right!

Still, Gregory’s androgynous model look is perfect for the Navajo warrior named Thunder who comes back to his hometown only to find out that the local Indian cemetery is being desecrated by some construction.

Thunder is clearly a throwback to an earlier time and culture when it was perhaps acceptable for tough guys to look pretty. And his technique of staring expressionless at whatever is transpiring works to keep us focused on his bee-stung lips and the pain they no doubt are feeling by the racism his people are experiencing at the hands of the narrow-minded townspeople.

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Fabrizio smartly doesn’t get in the way of all his superstars and lets them loose to do their thing, unhampered by stuff like dialogue, plot, character development, and only gives us the most cursory explanation of who Thunder is!

Fabrizio demonstrates a remarkable acumen for what we need in an action movie by reaching all the way back to the “Indian in a Modern World vs. Racist White Man” plot of 1973’s Billy Jack, retaining the great parts of it (Billy Jack kicking ass) and ditching the sucky parts (everything else) and adding construction equipment!

After Thunder gets hassled by the cops, run out of town, and then hassled and lassoed by the construction workers, he returns to town to get hassled by the cops again and like all loner killing machines who try really hard not to snap, he snaps!

He crashes through a store front window, steals a bow and some arrows and then it’s pretty much Little Big Horn all over again. But with a massive front end loader and Thunder’s trusty bazooka!

Thunder spends most of the movie running around the Arizona desert killing cops, construction workers, and even rescuing his girlfriend! The Sheriff spends a lot of his time on the CB calling in reinforcements and generally directing the effort to hunt Thunder down from his desert command post when he’s not watching college football on the TV he had dragged out there!

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If it doesn’t make any sense that the construction crew would have a cache of heavy weapons at their site, that’s easily forgiven when Thunder starts rolling through town in his stolen front end loader, blasting cop cars and the evil bank that was financing the construction project at his burial ground.

And if it doesn’t make any sense that a guy on the run from the law and hiding out in the desert would start cruising through town on a big yellow machine, you can easily forgive that too when Thunder drives it through the police station and the bank!

Even Sabato gets into the act, blowing up Thunder’s girlfriend’s gas station!

Thankfully, much of the action is in gratuitous slow motion (including Thunder being punched in the face repeatedly!) so you can savor it! And if you’re disappointed when all the delightfully meaningless Mark Gregory-inspired destruction is finally over, even that can be easily forgiven since Thunder II and Thunder III follow!

© 2014 MonsterHunter

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