Thunder (1983)

Thunder is a man on the edge. The white man has desecrated his tribe’s burial ground, sexually harassed his friend, and violated the treaty that his grandfather struggled to secure. What’s a young Native American man to do? Get revenge. Get sweet, explosive revenge.

If you haven’t noticed it yet, there is a headband around Thunder’s head in that poster, he’s got a sling of bullets, he has long flowing black hair, and he’s holding a big gun. Does he look vaguely like Rambo like you? Well he totally should, because Thunder is straight up a First Blood knock off. A guy wanders into town, local law enforcement harasses him for no good reason, and then he’s given a reason to go off, so he kicks the ass of everyone he can until with limited weapons (a bow and arrow!) until there is a final confrontation in a burning building in which someone shows him kindness and he gives up…or in this case flees.

The idea was that the First Blood formula could be used to bring attention to problems facing the Native American community. Well…except that the whole things is pretty much an Italian production. So even the pro-Thunder side come off espousing stereotypes, as does Thunder himself. And he is totally an Italian guy playing a Navajo.

It’s important to note three different reactions here by the white folks who interact with Thunder: blatant and overt racism, a quiet acceptance that Thunder has to be stopped simply because he is destroying things regardless of agreement with his frustrations, and finally outright support for a man who has been mistreated by police and had his cultural heritage horribly desecrated. All of the cops fall into the first two groups (along with some racist redneck construction workers in the first and one old lady at the bank), while the lead journalist, a radio personality, and a bartender all fall into the last one and do their best to make sure Thunder’s side of the story is told.

Considering the overall plot and the rampant racism of the movie which definitely brings up the rating, the violence is mostly bloodless and somewhat sanitized, despite the number of slow motion car crashes and the final scenes of Thunder driving a bulldozer into buildings while wielding a bazooka one-handed. It’s never explained if Thunder has any kind of training either, just that he is a Navajo and therefore apparently has an innate understanding of fighting. The movie is light on plot and spends most of its time on the manhunt; there is even footage of cops watching a college football game thrown in for good measure. And more slow motion car crashes.

The worst part? The whole thing could easily have been prevented. Seriously, all you guys had to do was not violate a treaty. You should know better than to try building things on Indian burial grounds anyway. Did Poltergeist teach you nothing? I realize we have a long history in this country of not actually following the papers we sign with Native Americans, but it would have seriously saved us from so many slow motion automobile accidents. Insurance contracts in this town will have a “Thunder” section after this.

Also how in the hell did we get three films out of this franchise?

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