Film Review: Thunder Road (USA, 2019) is a genius arrival from a rogue independent filmmaker

Thunder Road opens with one of the more profound opening scenes in recent memory. Police officer Jim is giving a eulogy at his mother’s funeral somewhere in the American heartland. He’s completely unprepared and grief-stricken and – in one 12-minute shot – flips from humourous nostalgia to all out hysterics, finishing the awkward performance with a bungled attempt at a song-and-dance routine of her favourite Springsteen song which shares the film’s title.

The scene sets an interesting comedic tone for the remainder of the film. Jim is at a lowpoint in life with a marriage on the rocks and a daughter who’s beginning to act out in ways he couldn’t imagine. When he suddenly finds himself in a custody battle for his child, he’s forced to present as perfect at a time where he’s anything but.

While not a ‘cop movie’ by any means, there’s a wonderful ambiguity to Jim’s frequent microagressions through the film and the stresses police suffer daily. Rather than display an all-out anger management issue that would sit in tandem with a harsh life on the beat, the film shows a more nuanced approach to aggression, and leaves you guessing which came first.

The film was written, directed, produced, edited and even scored by complete newcomer Jim Cummings, who had apparently never taken an acting class before creating a Sundance-winning short film (the aforementioned opening scene) as precursor to this feature version. While it’s showing in a limited run in select cinemas, it might be a good opportunity to see a rising talent with a unique approach to tone and comedy before he’s the next big thing.

FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Thunder Road is in limited release now.

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