Days of Thunder (1990): Tom Cruise? More Like Tom Rush!

TOM CRUISE MONTH POSTER

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! It is officially entry 3 to Tom Cruise Month! So far we have talked about a pretty good movie, along with a not so good movie. Today, we are going to talk about “Days of Thunder,” a film I have seen once in 2017 when it was available on Amazon Prime for free. Since then, I bought a Triple Feature Blu-ray set of Tom Cruise films which contains “The Firm,” which I have reviewed on this blog almost three years ago, “Collateral,” and “Days of Thunder,” which of course I watched once more to talk about today.

So without any further dilly-dallying, it is time for entry three! This is…

*LIGHTNING CRACK*

TOM CRUISE MONTH

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“Days of Thunder” is directed by Tony Scott (Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop II) and stars Tom Cruise (Risky Business, All the Right Moves), Robert Duvall (Apocalypse Now, The Godfather), Randy Quaid (Caddyshack II, National Lampoon’s Vacation), Nicole Kidman (Batman Forever, Moulin Rouge!), and Cary Elwes (Glory, The Princess Bride). The film is about a man who becomes a NASCAR driver, but even though he may talk a good game, Tom Cruise’s character of Cole Trickle is not exactly accustomed to being in a stock car. The story goes over his journey as a racer, as a part of a new team, while also allowing a certain rival to get in the way.

When it comes to my official ranking of Tom Cruise movies, I probably would have told you a few years back that “Days of Thunder” is somewhere in the middle of what I’ve seen. It’s not great, but it has one or two entertaining moments. I also kind of liked the music and I thought I heard some of the score somewhere else before watching this film (upon my watch for this review, that is not the case). It’s a little formulaic, but it doesn’t mean there is no fun to be had. Tom Cruise, per usual, is solid and gives a likable performance as a decent character.

Now, it is 2020, and it has been a week since I have officially last watched “Days of Thunder.” It’s still an alright hour and a half of material. However, upon my second watch, I felt that the first half of the movie, where all the buildup is happening, is definitely better than the second half. And I am not knocking on the second half, because it is still entertaining, but seeing Cole Trickle have to adapt to his team and the mechanics of NASCAR makes for delightful content. In fact, I also briefly mentioned his rivalry in the film, there’s a scene where the two rivals have to head to a dinner together, and in doing so they rent a couple cars and wreck the s*it out of them. I was amused with what was happening on screen in those moments. It was just plain fun. I think the chemistry between Tom Cruise’s Cole Trickle, alongside racing rival Rowdy Burns, played with excellence by Michael Rooker (Guardians of the Galaxy, JFK) makes for some of the better scenes in the movie. Aside from all the action that goes on behind the wheels for these two, there’s another scene where the two happen to be in wheelchairs and they are racing around the hospital. Not only did it do a solid job on getting into the lack of fondness towards the duo, but it did so while keeping me interested in everything that was going on.

I mentioned earlier that I really liked the music in this film, and having watched this film a second time, this really should come as no surprise. Because not only was it something that I was kind of looking forward to hearing, but I was paying attention to the opening credits, and I saw a name that I was particularly delighted to see pop up on my screen.

HANS. F*CKING. ZIMMER.

If you all had to ask me who I think the greatest film composer of all time is, I’d give you three names. John Williams, Danny Elfman, and Hans Zimmer. Maybe Alan Silvestri would be an honorable mention. For those of you who don’t know me or are new around here, Zimmer composed my favorite film score of all time, which was appropriately presented in one of my favorite films of all time, “Interstellar.” His relationship during his recent points in his career with Christopher Nolan allowed him to do that movie, “Inception,” “Dunkirk,” and the “Dark Knight” films. He’s also collaborated with composer Benjamin Wallfisch to work on “Blade Runner 2049,” he’s done a number of DreamWorks animations, “The Lion King,” “The Last Samuai,” and even though I have a couple problems with his score for “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” its high moments make up for its faults. “Days of Thunder” is one of Zimmer’s earliest scores that I have heard, and it does match up with the skill and talent that I’ve seen from him today.

Keeping with the theme of Tom Cruise Month, I want to reference the previous film I reviewed, specifically “All the Right Moves.” In my review for that film, I mentioned that one of the main reasons I disliked that film was because even though it focuses on the main character’s struggles and downfalls, I felt as if there was little reason to actually root for him. He’s kind of a dick, he just feels like a horny jock who wants nothing more than to get into Lea Thompson’s pants, and when it comes to the film’s conclusion and what it has to do with the main character, it almost feels as if, without spoilers, there is no reason for me to root for him and say that he earned his fate. Despite the effort put into his portrayal from Tom Cruise himself, the character just didn’t stick the landing for me. Cole Trickle on the other hand, aside from having a somewhat likable name, kind of like Luke Skywalker or Johnny Utah or Taserface or Turd Ferguson (it’s a funny name, ha ha), has this swagger to him that makes him feel like someone only Cruise could portray and make as likable as he is. And when it comes to, once again, struggles and downfalls, Cole Trickle doesn’t come off as a big enough dick to make me not care about him whenever he screws up. Plus, when it comes to how this movie concludes, the ending feels earned and deserved, it does more than simply exist to take up screen time. It is a fate that feels satisfying and worthy of a thumbs up. Not one where I want to throw my popcorn at my 4K TV.

Aside from the first half of “Days of Thunder” being better than the second half, my other complaints with the film are that there are one or two scenes that maybe were a little unnecessary (even if they did entertain), and that there are some predictable moments. Other than that, “Days of Thunder” is a solid film. I do recommend it.

Before I go any further, I also want to point out that I also really liked Robert Duvall’s performance. I liked the stern portrayal of his character, which added some grit to the film overall, and it just goes to show that you can really get an impact from a mentor-type figure on screen.

In the end, “Days of Thunder” once again comes into the middle rankings of my Tom Cruise library of films that I have seen with him as part of the cast. Would I watch it again? Honestly, not anytime soon. I’d rather watch “The Last Samurai,” I’d rather watch “Oblivion,” I’d rather watch “Edge of Tomorrow.” But that’s just me. Even so, this film has its moments. The racing scenes are fun, and some of the non-racing stuff can make for some pure entertainment too. But I don’t think it will give the movie all that much replay value in the future. I’m going to give “Days of Thunder” a 7/10. Before I watched this movie for my review, I had given it a 6, but in reality, the problems it has are not particularly world-ending or overwhelming, they’re just faults that maybe need to be pointed out to separate what’s good from bad. At the same time though, Cruise has done better in his career compared to this film. This may be on the lower spectrum of a 7, but as of this review, it stands where it is.

Thanks for reading this review! Up next in Tom Cruise Month is going to be my review for “Top Gun,” another Tony Scott film, which if you ask me, is the main reason why I am doing this series to begin with. After all, we were supposed to get the sequel, AKA “Top Gun: Maverick,” on June 24th. But unfortunately, it has been delayed to December, which sucks because personally if it were coming out this summer, it would have been in my top 5, maybe even 3, most anticipated films of the season. But I will be looking forward to the film, should I get to see it this winter. As a substitution, expect a review for the original sometime this week. If you want to see this review and other great content, make sure you follow Scene Before either through an email or WordPress account! If you want another place to get access to my content, go like my Facebook page, which provides links to the posts I create once they’re published, and some side banter you don’t really get to see here on Flicknerd.com. It’s a good time! I want to know, did you see “Days of Thunder?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite racing movie of all time? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

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