I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Thunder Run

THUNDER RUN is a Cannon-distributed movie with a wonderfully ridiculous sounding premise: a Korean war vet trucker has to drive a weaponized big rig full of plutonium at high speed as bait for a gang of nuclear terrorists. For some reason when I read the back of the VHS box it kind of sounded to me like a bullshit Hollywood blockbuster remake of THE MAN WHO GOT AWAY, the nihilistic indie movie that the main character is trying to make in Charles Willeford’s The Woman Chaser.

It’s kind of less awesome than it sounds but much more laid back and good hearted. It stars Forrest Tucker (FINAL CHAPTER: WALKING TALL) in his penultimate role (the last being the TV movie TIMESTALKERS) as Charlie Morrison, the nice old Nevada grandpa who’s in need of money to keep his Cobalt mine operating when he’s offered a quarter of a million dollars to make the run by his old war buddy George (John Ireland, MY DARLING CLEMENTINE).

The funny thing is it’s almost halfway into the movie by the time he actually leaves on the run. Some of that screen time is spent on preparations, but alot of it’s just shenanigans. For example, we get a whole sequence about the local drag racing scene. Charlie’s grandson Chris (John Shepherd, Tommy from FRIDAY THE 13TH: A NEW BEGINNING) races his shitty looking pickup truck and beats an out of towner in a sports car, trying to win money for Grandpa. Little does he know he won’t be needing it. This scene also introduces Chris’s group of friends including girlfriend Kim (Jill Whitlow, PORKY’S, NIGHT OF THE CREEPS), “electronics genius” Paul (Wallace Langham, SOUL MAN, COMBAT ACADEMY, THE SOCIAL NETWORK), who rigged the truck with nitrous oxide, and a hot blonde (Cheryl M. Lynn, maybe?) who lures the police away by driving up on a motorcycle and flipping them off. Of course she does that with an all black helmet and then takes it off and dramatically unfurls the hair so we will say “GASP! It’s a LADY!

I think you can understand why the video caught my eye.

Charlie knows his wife Maggie (Marilyn O’Connor) isn’t gonna be cool with the dangerous mission so he butters up by taking her out for drinks and she makes him pie and stuff. The next day they have some investors visiting the mine, which apparently doesn’t have much going on so Chris and all of his friends from the drag races come there to make it seem busy. One of them gropes some of the girls, so Paul dumps a bulldozer shovel full of dirt onto his convertible and then accidentally drives over it. So yeah, Charlie’s gonna need that money.

But Chris worries about him and “you’re not just my grandfather, you’re my father and my friend.” He convinces him to let him come by saying he can help him use the CB and eat Maggie’s apple pie while he’s driving. He turns out to be very important because his grandpa will tell him “push #1” or “push #2” and he’ll push the buttons that activate the blowtorch on the side of the truck to light a motorcycle gun couple on fire, or the exploding barrels of fuel that dump out of the back to blow up a chasing car.

The most absurd and most fun part of the movie is how Charlie enlists all of his grandson’s young friends as his team of experts and operatives. They soup up the truck, follow in other vehicles and Paul creates a plan to steal a secret code that changes each day so that they can hack into a computer system and control the defensive barrier and lasers that defend the tunnel into the secret base at the end of the run. Charlie is promised that they’ll be turned off for him, but they all assume (correctly) that they’ll need these kids as back up. “Just a little insurance.”

It’s awfully convenient that they make this seemingly gratuitous plan since SPOILER they end up needing it. But never fear, you do get to see what the laser tunnel looks like and you do get to hear George say the line “Sorry about the laser tunnel.”

The storytelling is sloppy. For example, the opening scene is about the military blowing up a sedan and a station wagon that we’re told are terrorists who stole plutonium. Then they hire Charlie because they say they need the terrorists to attack again for them to catch them and they’d never attack a military convoy so they need it to be transported in civilian vehicles. Obviously we have to wonder why they weren’t more careful to catch them the first time, why the terrorists don’t have better vehicles, why they need to use real plutonium if it’s just bait, why they don’t just continue transporting it in military vehicles if they know it will never be stolen in them, etc. But if we accept that the plan makes sense then shouldn’t the opening be the run that’s not successful – the terrorists stealing the plutonium from the previous transporters – so we can see what Charlie’s up against? I can only assume that they were basing the story of that opening around previously existing footage or something.

The stunt coordinator is Rod Amateau, whose name I know because he directed GARBAGE PAIL KIDS: THE MOVIE. That’s the sort of thing I remember. But I also knew he’d been a producer and director on The Dukes of Hazzard, which makes so much sense when you see this. It’s that same feeling of “good ol’ boys never meanin’ no harm,” driving fast and even, in one scene, getting chased by uptight cops who crash into a body of water and have to escape the sinking car. There are many crashing stunts and explosions and I guess the famous one is where an 18-wheeler jumps over a train. The terrorists drive a camouflaged missile-launching VW Beetle, among other things. The truck has many gimmicks like “space age plastic” bullet proof windows, but I don’t completely understand why they need it because then they jump into Chris’s champion drag racer pickup truck for the last stretch.

The film is dedicated to the memory of Clifford Wenger Jr., a special effects artist who was killed by an explosion while filming RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II. His parents Clifford Sr. and Carol Lynn produced and developed the movie. Director Gary Hudson only helmed one other movie, CLUB V.R. (1996). He’s primarily an actor who has appeared in ROAD HOUSE, MARTIAL OUTLAW, SCANNER COP and BRIDGE OF DRAGONS.

This is not a highly entertaining movie in my opinion, but I very much like the vibe of it. I like that it’s kind of a youth movie, about young people driving and sexing and pranking and getting in fights at bars, but also has their grandpa/boss as the hero. I like that the main characters are all nice people who like each other, never bicker, just know how to work together to get things done and have fun. And best of all, Charlie is not at all your standard hero. Yeah, he’s got grit and he’s very capable with engines and driving and he does punch a guy in one part, but he’s not macho or intimidating. He’s this sweet husband and grandfather who’s wholesome and caring.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 7th, 2018 at 10:42 am and is filed under Action, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

45 Responses to “Thunder Run”

  1. Crushinator Jones

    February 7th, 2018 at 3:39 pm

    When I was a kid I loved this movie, because it was shot in Laughlin Nevada and Bullhead City, Arizona. My grandparents lived there and we vacationed there every summer so seeing all the signs and casinos that I saw as a kid blew my mind.

    It’s not good, but let’s face it – doing cool mack truck stunts and driving a big rig through a laser tunnel isn’t bad. It can’t be bad.

  2. Gary Hudson was almost Elvis for John Carpenter. I still don’t know how Eric Roberts (industry heat) and/or Robby Benson (teen idol) were not in the running by producer Dick Clark.

  3. This is as good a time as any to mention the 80s All Over podcast with Drew McWeeny and Scott Weinberg is my favorite podcast ever. Vern, does anybody ever invite you on a podcast? Want to start one? :)

  4. Sternshein, I like ’80s All Over too. The sound clips and scripted intros remind me of watching Siskel & Ebert back in the day. I did get interviewed for an Australian podcast once but the file got erased before it aired! I was boring anyway. That reminds me I have to talk to that guy again. I also promised to go on a Van Damme related podcast but then they stopped doing it. Other than that I have not been invited but I would love to be a guest on some podcasts, especially after I finally finish this book and need to plug it.

    I have also daydreamed about making a podcast, but I don’t think I’m ready for that yet. I think it would be hard for me without a co-host, and I don’t know who that would be.

  5. Awkward confession: I don’t like podcast, but it’s not them, it’s me. I have trouble to just sit there and hear people talk for an hour or two without anything to look at. And that’s too bad, because some of them seem right up my alley and something I would watch if they would be a video.

  6. I’ve been told I need to do a podcast by at least 15 people. So I’d be interested in the cohost position.

    Question: How important is it that applicants have ever listened to a single podcast in their life? Because I’ve probably listened to two, maybe three, so am I overqualified?

  7. The answer, Vern, is always Scott Foy. Scott Foy should be every movie podcasts co-host.

    I listen to podcasts in the car on my commute or when I’m cleaning the house.

  8. if this hypothetical podcast would be anything like the parody video review you made many years ago, Vern, i’d definitely tune in.

  9. I was going to run in here and nominate Mr. Majestyk (or Mr. S) but I see Mr. M already came did. If neither of them are interested or you have a falling out, I nominate el loco or Amazing Larry depending on what direction you want to take this new frontier in.

    If you want a VERY awkward guest I nominate me!

  10. The only podcast I bother with is the Stephen King podcast The Losers Club. They manage to strike a balance of being fans as well as irreverent towards King. The in depth book discussions are tremendous as they go into high detail about their opinions, why some parts are good, some bad. It´s a pretty exhaustive podcast. And it is just a breath of fresh air in a climate of polarizing opinions and rotten tomatoes.

  11. Getting Majestyk ( a.k.a Monsieur leroux) as a co-host is not a great option.. Him and Vern would literally just sit there agreeing. I am all for geoffreyjar´s hot take to invite Amazing Larry or even Rogue4 to at least create some dynamic. Maybe not necessarily those. But someone that disagrees more with Vern would be nice.

  12. If Paul were still here and active on the Comments section I would have recommended him as well.

    I don’t listen to many podcasts, 2 or 3 MAYbe?, but there are some where the hosts are buds and agree the majority of the time and the show is still engaging because they are knowledgeable about their subjects and are engaging speakers.

  13. Oh , yes. Paul. I wish he came back. I seem to remember he had some personal family issues going on. I hope he is ok. But he would be a tremendous foil. I can even see a segment in the podcast called “Paul´s Village” in which Paul talks about movies nobody else agrees with.

  14. Yeah I hope all is fine with him too. He was simultaneously eye-rolling and great fun. I felt you couldn’t call him a troll because not only did he really believe his opinions and wasn’t trying to get a rise out of people but he also backed them up! I felt he was a good debater most of the time.

    Vern: LAWRENCE OF ARABIA is a great movie.
    Paul: Eh, it was ‘okay.’ Honestly the cinematography, acting, and direction could have been better. The whole thing just felt half-assed, you know?

    Vern: Harry Lime is a great character.
    Paul: I’m so sorry you fell for that lamestream opinion as well. Lime is one of the worst written and acted characters I’ve ever seen in ANY form of media. Don’t even get me started on his ‘dialogue’ if you could even call it that!

    and finally:

    On this week’s very special Paul’s Village, Paul goes on length how the HAS FALLEN movies are so clearly and obviously satire on America. This is an opinion not shared by the movies’ writers or directors or actors or producers or anyone else in the entire world but they are wrong too.

  15. Vern and I definitely do not agree on everything. Just off the top of my head, I like the CRANK movies. Vern hates them. Vern thinks the BLADE series is a modern classic. I find them enjoyable but disposable. Vern denies the existence of a fifth DIE HARD film. I’ve seen it like six times (theatrical cut only) and still crack a goofy smile at the family reunion at the end. Vern is levelheaded and even-handed toward artistically bankrupt franchise extensions. I have a slash-and-burn-and-salt-the-earth policy. I think we’d have plenty to argue about, me with my naturally euphonious narratorial tones, he with a Bane voice-modifier on to preserve whatever mysteriousness he has left.

    Also if you think there’s anyone alive I can’t find a way to disagree with, well, CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.

  16. But,dude. whenever someone says something mean at Vern, you suddenly become a ZORK-based version of Sir Galahad and for some reason throw your text-based gauntlet at them. And usually I wonder well can´t Vern fight his own battles? He is not that precious so not to defend for himself.

    That is why I think you´d be less suitable for a podcast co-host.

  17. I know Vern can fight his own battles, but he’s too nice a guy to really crush a motherfucker the way I feel they should be crushed. So I do the dirty work so he won’t have to lower himself to that level.

    I have no such compunctions.

  18. Also people who disrespect a man in his own house piss me off personally. I’m not firing back to defend Vern’s honor. I’m doing it on general principle.

  19. I still think it is Vern´s own battles to fight. I myself is willing to back it up when necessary. But you draw blood so fast it is ridiculous.

  20. I admit that I am often like a gunslinger who’s just waiting for someone to touch leather as an excuse to draw iron. It’s not my most attractive feature. You will notice that I will often come back almost immediately afterward with, if not an apology, at least a softening of my original stance. I’m trying to force myself to take a minute before I respond to make sure it’s worth the drama, because I usually regret it when I bring the shock-and-awe, even when it might be warranted. I know I have a gift for words and I feel guilty whenever I use my powers for evil.

  21. Thanks for pointing it out, though. It’s something I need to work on. Righteous wrath is a seductive drug but you take it too far and you get into Travis Bickle territory.

  22. This is your greatest skill as a writer. I feel.You have a tremendous sense of both self certainly and yet a great sense of a quality of disarmament. I wish I had that myself, but I am so uncertain in my own writing to be able to rite properly.

  23. Thanks for saying that. That’s the balance I’m usually trying to go for so it means a lot to know that comes across.

  24. The world really, really, really does not need any more podcasts… It is especially infuriating when I site I like gives up typing stuff altogether in order to focus on their boring podcast.

    “You know what would give our content some zip? If we added an ‘um’ after every three to four words. Let’s do this as a podcast!”

  25. Shoot and Majestyk – I can fight my own battles but I’m like William Munny, I’m not looking for battles. Honestly when these big arguments come up here, depending on what they’re about, they can feel like a stressful distraction from what I want to be working on. I read something some asshole wrote and it gets in my craw and invades my mental space for much longer than it should. So there have been many times when I was very grateful to keep scrolling and see that Majestyk or Subtlety or some of the others have already responded much more thoroughly and eloquently than I was ready to. They offer smart, thoughtful perspectives and as a bonus they have helped me out. I appreciate it.

    jojo – If I ever made a podcast it would not be in place of writing movie reviews. I don’t think I could ever stop that. It would be about movies but it would be in some other format involving discussion. My commute involves walking and riding the bus so I am addicted to the medium and what I get out of it is totally different from what I try to do in writing.

    My dream podcast would cost millions of dollars. It would be called ‘T Time with Vern’ and each episode would be based around an episode of the Mr. T cartoon. I would go to the city depicted in the episode, visit related landmarks and talk with someone there about the episode and the city. Hopefully along the way I would meet people who worked on the cartoon and in the last episode I would learn gymnastics from Mr. T.

  26. Vern- I´m glad you articulated it finally. I Just assumed you wanted to take on the fights on your own so I never bothered whenever some asshole put something in that sounded weird.

    But maybe I should step up like everyone else here to keep the place alright. Maybe Majestyk was alright by setting the tone and not let stupid shit slide, because , who knows , what would happen then.

  27. I read too much on my tablet or phone which is why most of my comments are dumb. For years I wanted to break through and be considered an equal with everybody here. Now I feel a kinship to Shoot and geoffreyjar so I am happy. Plus Vern actually retweeted something I said recently which is pretty cool.

    Do you still have a Patreon Vern?

  28. Podcast with Vern and Mr Majestyk? Reminds me of the novel THE OUTLAW AND THE HITMAN.

  29. I’m glad my attack dog services are appreciated, Vern. I’m trying not to be so punchy, but it’s hard because I am pugnacious by nature and the defense of a friend gives me a viable excuse to release the Kraken. It still probably has more to do with whatever anger and frustration I might be feeling that day than any sense of altruism but it’s good to know I’m not overstepping any bounds.

  30. I’ve been seriously considering starting a podcast. I’ve done some guest spots on other people’s shows, and every time I think, I should be doing this! I’ve already got hundreds of backlogged interviews to start with, but I dunno. Vern: Podcast or not to podcast? Wanna be my wingman?

  31. …but, yeah: Thunder Run. I gotta get a copy of that.

  32. david, if you turned your interviewing of action stars and filmmakers into a podcast (or part of a podcast with other elements) that could be incredible! And I would love to help however appropriate although I guess it would have to be via satellite.

  33. We’ll figure it out!

  34. Well, I guess I better start learning how to listen to podcasts.

  35. Crushinator Jones

    February 9th, 2018 at 2:13 pm

    I like that Mr. Majestyk goes buck wild on folks. But maybe that’s because I’m the same way.

  36. Since I asked the question that got the ball rolling, can I get an executive producer credit? lol just kidding.

  37. If we can get back to the trucker genre for a bit, does anyone have a favourite? SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT is of course the ultimate vorspiel movie, but WHITE LINE FEVER might be the only serious one. Thoughts? Discuss…

  38. BREAKER! BREAKER! / BLACK DOG… As much as I like Swayze, I always wonder what that one would have been like if Kevin Sorbo hadn’t had his stroke. He was signed on and ready to go. I don’t care what anyone thinks, I like Sorbo, and he was at a great stage in his career when BLACK DOG was made. I gotta interview Sorbo and get him on the record about KULL…

  39. The Undefeated Gaul

    February 10th, 2018 at 11:33 am

    I always liked Sorbo too. On HERCULES he was perfectly cast as this big old goofy dude that just felt like a good guy through and through. There just seemed to be no edge to him, which made it seem very weird when he was suddenly killing peeps for real in KULL THE CONQUEROR. I still go back the Hercules show from time to time to just watch a few random eps, it just makes me feel happy, no matter how cheap and shittily produced it was, especially in the earlier seasons. Plus that intro tune has got to be the catchiest, most rousing tune ever put on a tv show.

    Bit weird that Sorbo turned out to be some weird Jesus freak though. Obviously it was a character he played, but I just BELIEVED him has Hercules, always thought it must be a big part of his own personality shining through as he didn’t seem like much of an actor. Guess I was wrong on that one!

  40. If you’re hellbent on doing a podcast, at least allow me to give you a couple of tips (audio production/editing used to be my job) that will make your show much more listenable, and that the majority of podcasters (unfortunately) don’t follow.

  41. Awww, you guys. Maybe Vern can host a podcast and get both Mr’s on it. We could call it “Vern and S&M”

  42. After having read Vern’s Twitter I can confirm that Kevin Sorbo sucks.

  43. At least that argument was kinda funny at just the ridiculousness of happening in a Kevin Sorbo sub-tweet.

  44. The Undefeated Gaul

    February 15th, 2018 at 1:08 am

    Just saw that. Yeah, so definitely not Hercules in real life, that guy.

  45. Amazing Larry would be great if you want the podcast to become typical screaming heads FOX NEWS esque chaos.

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