Thunderbolt and Lightfoot

30 May


Written and directed by Michael Cimino, the 1974 movie Thunderbolt and Lightfoot tells the story of a friendship formed by unlikely circumstance, leading to a bank robber getting his old gang back together, which an added new accomplice, to attempt a new heist.

Thunderbolt (Clint Eastwood) and Lightfoot (Jeff Bridges) meet by chance, with Thunderbolt fleeing a shooting at a church where he was delivering a sermon, and Lightfoot speeding around in a stolen car. After nearly running Thunderbolt over, Lightfoot lets him into the car and they become friends in remarkably quick time.

It’s immediately obvious how the characters are going to play against each other, even if we don’t now their roles yet. Thunderbolt is the weary old-timer missing his youth; Lightfoot is the young, cocky, lady-loving flash kid with no fear and his whole life ahead of him.

In establishing their friendship, Lightfoot learns that his older friend was a bank robber but after some misunderstandings about his last job, some of his old chums now want his blood. When the old friends hunt him down, there is a brief altercation that, to me, felt like an anti-climax with a fairly lame fight scene thrown in. The first half of the movie had clearly been building to this meeting of the group and when it comes, there is no real tension or threat of peril, so for me that part fell a little flat.


However, it does bring the main cast together, so Thunderbolt’s old friends Eddie Goody (Geoffrey Lewis) and Red Leary (George Kennedy) are now part of the gang. Red is full of bluster and spends most of his time shouting at Lightfoot, whilst Goody is treated as the dumb sidekick for no obvious reason.

They form a plan to go back and again rob the bank that had caused the falling out in the first place. It soon becomes clear that not everybody is so intent on working together though – there are members of the group only looking out for themselves.

The cast are all good but it’s the title characters, or rather their actors that steal the show. Eastwood and Bridges work fantastically well on screen together. For all Eastwood’s quality though, it is Bridges who is the star of this picture. He is entertaining each time he is on screen. In other hands, his cocky young character could have been irritating and easy to dislike. But with Bridges’ portrayal, Lightfoot becomes charming, funny and immeasurably cool. You’ll be rooting for him throughout. His performance was good enough to earn him a nomination from the academy for best supporting actor.There are some odd scenes thrown into this film that do not progress the story particularly well, but they do at least amuse. A scene in which our two heroes hitchhike with a deranged man who has a raccoon in his car for no real reason is the prime example of this.

Overall, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot is a more than decent film. The title characters are the main focus but it the supporting roles are competently filled. The story is good, if at times a little hard to believe but there’s nothing here to really pick holes in. Whilst you’ll find yourself hoping for a successful bank robbery, the real story is in the friendship of Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, and it is one imbued with real heart and warmth.



One Response to “Thunderbolt and Lightfoot”

  1. vinnieh June 1, 2013 at 10:53 #

    Great post, I’ll have to watch this one.

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