The One-Armed Man

Tommy Lee Jones doesn’t smile until the final act begins in Rolling Thunder. Jones plays a minor role, a close friend to star William Devane, both returning from Vietnam after extended torture at the hands of Vietnamese. Arriving home, with bands and townspeople cheering with performative patriotism, neither Devane or Jones smile.

That static, expressionless face changes with 20-minutes to go. Devane’s Charles Rane returns to Jones’ home, and with few words, the two begin loading suitcases with weapons; Jones has rarely expressed such joy on screen – these men are going in for another fight, now the only things they know.

Rolling Thunder’s exploration of reintegration is stellar cinematic drama

An exploitation film masquerading as a serious drama, Rane leads a majority of the runtime, aloof and alone after his wife and son were murdered days after arriving home. Pre-dating both Deer Hunter and First Blood, Rolling Thunder takes a similar approach emotionally – the men have changed since their deployment as much as their homes and relationships. Their inability to feel after shutting down mentally during their grueling wartime abuse gives them little purpose in life. The chance to chase down killers finally ignites their minds.

Rane loses a hand early in Rolling Thunder. Soon after being given a hook prosthetic, he’s seen sharpening the ends. Then, he saws his shotgun, grabs a local bartender for company (among other reasons), and dashes off to Mexico. Rolling Thunder’s violence is then infrequent but vicious as the script explores Rane’s defeated, indifferent emotional status. Killing to him is necessary, and the only thing he’s trained to do.

Visually a somber film, Rolling Thunder makes the most of shadows, keeping its stars in a state of constant gloom. Rarely does the film relent, and strangely, unless involved in a shootout, it’s a quiet offering too. Rane speaks in hushed tones, and his attempts to connect to a son who never knew him have an appropriate, whisper quiet awkwardness with both trying to make inroads. Rolling Thunder’s exploration of reintegration is stellar cinematic drama, eventually punctuated by a brutally violent outburst. The mixture works.


Shout’s mesmerizing new 4K master allows Rolling Thunder to visually sing. A flawless film print barely shows a single speck of dust. Grain persists at a consistent rate, and the encode handles the material without issue.

Stellar resolution resolves detail and texture greet each scene. Close-ups bring facial definition in droves. Exteriors/wide shots defy the late ’70s origins. Also helping is a generous Dolby Vision pass, giving depth to the black levels and a steady spark to light. It’s bright, but not enough to distract.

Equally splendid is the color, the reds and blues strikingly rich. Vibrancy hits a surprising peak. Flesh tones elevate without veering too far as to be over saturated.


DTS-HD mono does what it can with a fuzzy source. Dialog carries a notable roughness revealing its age. The music rests in a bright treble zone that lacks refinement, but offers enough clarity to get by. Rolling Thunder undoubtedly sounds the best it can, but that’s more on the rough side.


Other than two commentaries, bonuses reside on the Blu-ray. The first commentary features screenwriter Heywood Gould and historian C. Courtney Joyner. The second invites filmmakers Jackson Stewart and Francis Gallupi. Over on the Blu-ray, new interviews begin with Joyner returning, followed by composer BarryDe Vorzen. An older making of and a Trailers from Hell (with Eli Roth) pair up with trailers, stills, and other promos.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Rolling Thunder
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Moody and thoughtful. Rolling Thunder is an exploitation movie masquerading as a serious drama.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 37 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD:

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