Days Of Thunder
Paramount Home Entertainment -
1990 - 107
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For anyone who has ever wondered what it would be like to blaze into turn 4 at the Daytona 500 strapped behind the wheel of a stock car moving at upwards of 200 mph, Days Of Thunder is Tony Scottï¿½s attempt to give you that chance. Only a few years removed from working with Tom Cruise on Top Gun, Scott once again gets the chance to direct arguably the biggest box office name of the late 80s and early 90s in another adrenaline-packed escapade. This time itï¿½s melting tires and "rubbing is racing" as opposed to afterburners and "the need for speed". Though not as universally received as their previous collaboration, Days Of Thunder could be seen as a good NASCAR translation of its F-14 predecessor.
Mind if I cut in?
This time Tom Cruise plays Cole Trickle, another young hot shot who isnï¿½t happy unless heï¿½s pushing the envelope with his hair on fire. The inexperienced adrenaline-junky gets his shot at the big time when small-town car dealership owner Tim Daland (Randy Quaid) wants to put together a race team. Not well-funded enough to get a top-shelf driver or crew chief, Daland calls on the rookie to drive and retired (but savvy) crew chief Harry Hogge (Robert Duvall) to try and put together a winning product for him. The two are initially like vinegar and water, but soon they learn to understand each other a little. After some early misfortunes, they win some races and earn themselves a sponsor. This sets the stage for a good driver/crew chief relationship that is pretty fun to watch throughout the duration of the feature.
What would a good testosterone flick be without a villain? Well, this movie has two. First we are introduced to Rowdy Burns (Michael Rooker). He is the established veteran that makes it his mission to "welcome" the new guy to the big leagues. After swapping paint in several races, the two are involved in a massive crash, from which both have a difficult time recovering. Cole eventually gets cleared to race again. His doctor (and subsequent love interest) Claire Lewicki (Nicole Kidman), is not so quick to allow Rowdy back behind the wheel. He has developed what appear to be long-term complications and may never race again. Rowdyï¿½s troubles are compounded when his sponsors threaten not to pick up the tab for the season unless his car finishes well at Daytona. He needs a driver. This just happens to coincide with Cole needing a car, as he intentionally wrapped his last one around a competitorï¿½s car in the last race and was summarily fired.
Enter villain number two. Cary Elwes plays Russ Wheeler, another young dazzler who filled in for Cole while he was recovering. Well, now heï¿½s the enemy. Heï¿½s the one with the sponsor and seemingly nothing to lose. The same kind of conflict that we see early with Rowdy and Cole gets mirrored here with Cole and Russ. (Does this guy rub everyone the wrong way?) In any event, youï¿½ll get plenty of smoking tires, burning clutches, and blown engines before the checkered flag falls on this NASCAR event. Though not the kind of movie that inspires a sequel or sets new records at the box office, Days Of Thunder more than paid for itself, and is a fun ride for anyone that likes to fly by the seat of their pants.
A pretty decent video presentation throughout, Days Of Thunder exhibited fairly solid colors all the way through, with only a few muted shades that could have been more lively. Flesh tones were good, and the camera work does a good job of trying to put you in the cockpit with these drivers. Some of it is a little choppy and hard to follow, but at the same time it gives you some idea as to the conditions out there on the track. Some of the darker scenes are a bit gloomy, with some of the shots in the barn and other evening sequences coming through a little muddled. Overall, it was nice but not a thriller in the video department.
Brought to us in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround, the aural assault here is respectable. With powerful original music from Hans Zimmer (who has scored films for both Tony Scott and his older brother Ridley), the frontal assault is even and consistent. Right/left Foley effects are a bit subtle, and could have benefited from a little more "pop". Though sound effects like the pneumatic guns in the pits and some of the in-car effects were pretty solid, they could have been better. Voices are delivered accurately, with only some scenes sounding a bit tinny. The rear channels shone most brightly during the race sequences. Outside of that, they were a little hushed for my taste. The sub chips in for some of the throaty engine groans and for the big crashes, but remains fairly docile otherwise.
To go so far as to construe the menu here as containing supplements is a stretch at best. Another one-release-wonder, this subsection could appropriately be named "supplement" (singular). The trailer is the only "extra" to speak of, and though it does contain some things that were cut from the final version, it certainly wonï¿½t satiate the hunger of a feature-depraved viewer. Other than the "trailer" link on the menu, you only have the self-explanatory "play", "setup" (audio), and "scenes". Donï¿½t expect to take the pole position in any race with those unimpressive qualifying numbers.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Although it is a movie I was happy to pick up for a reasonable price, I also wish I would have gotten a little more out of this one. I think I still have the laser disc for this one lying around somewhere, and it likely would have been nearly as good.
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