After the rousing success of Top Gun, Tom Cruise’s acting career was never hotter. Starring in several films after Top Gun, Cruise eventually returned to the action genre with 1990’s Days of Thunder. Although not a huge success like Top Gun, Days still raked in quite a bit of dough, despite being incredibly light on plot and substance. Still, moviegoers were treated to more fantastic and action packed visuals as the NASCAR races in the film proved to be some of the most exciting ever put on screen up to that point. On top of that, the film created the pairing of Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise, which would later entertain the world more than this film ever did.
From the engine roar and fever pitch of professional stock car racing, Days of Thunder explodes with the most spectacular racing action ever captured on film. Tom Cruise plays race driver Cole Trickle, whose talent and ambition are surpassed only by his burning need to win. Discovered by businessman Tim Daland (Randy Quaid), Cole is teamed with legendary crew chief and car-builder Harry Hogge (Academy Award. winner Robert Duvall) to race for the Winston Cup at the Daytona 500. A fiery crash nearly ends Cole’s career and he must turn to a beautiful doctor (Nicole Kidman) to regain his nerve and the true courage needed to race, to win and to live. Co-starring Cary Elwes and John C. Reilly.
Yet another in a line of movies I’d never seen (and for some reason I always thought this movie was rated R for some reason…weird), Days of Thunder proved to be just what I thought it’d be: Top Gun with cars. Not necessarily a bad thing, but the film doesn’t even really try to be anything more than that. The plot, what there is of it, is even mostly the same with Cruise’s character being involved in a dangerous crash and attempting to gain his confidence back again to race. I’m sure the film was a lot of fun to make, but they could have…you know, added a bit more substance to it.
I will say that the races were fun to watch (and hear), but I honestly think we saw more on-track action from Talladega Nights (in which John C. Reilly also appears) than we did in here, but still you can’t really turn your nose up at noisy cars zooming around in a circle. It’s hard to fault the film entirely since that’s obviously all it set out to do, but man…I don’t think I’ve spent 107 minutes in front of a TV before and been so unrewarded in terms of plot. I mean this was really identical to Top Gun in so many ways, it’s not even funny.
An element I found particularly hilarious in the film was the fear that Cole was facing due to the crash he was in. Honestly, it didn’t occur to me he was even feeling any fear about it until the “overcoming” segment in the film happened. I thought he was just guilty about injuring another racer, but apparently he was fearful about getting in another crash. A worthy fear to be sure, but it was very unclear (to me) that that was what it was about. Also the mid-movie replacement of the “nemesis” in the film was a bit of a cop out, since Cary Elwes had little choice but to act like a complete jerk from the start in order for us to hate him appropriately. Not that Cruise’s eventual defeat of him came as a surprise; the obligatory bed time discussion about some fancy race car move was included, so we knew how the film was going to end before the scene even came into play as well.
It’s really a shame that so much talent was wasted in this film. I mean Cruise, Quaid, Duvall, Kidman, Reilly? None of them even shine here and Kidman’s hair outperforms anything she could possibly bring to this film. Not saying any of it was really badly acted (although I laughed quite a few times when I shouldn’t have), but it just seems like a giant cluster of wasted opportunity if I ever saw one.
But…I guess that’s what we get from a mindless faux-sequel to Top Gun. It could’ve been better, but it also could’ve definitely been a lot worse (and loaded with strange homosexual undertones like Top Gun was…I still am so amazed by how loaded that movie was with those) and at this point the only type of person who would enjoy this film is either already a fan or can dig mindless 90s action flicks. I’m one of those, so I don’t have a problem watching this film again; it’s an easy way to spend an hour or so and I don’t always have to get amazing content out of the movies I watch, so this is a good mindless venture. Plus it looks nice on the shelf next to Top Gun. Recommended if you like cars or popcorn flicks, otherwise you can pass this one up (if you haven’t seen it by now, that is).
Paramount has released Days of Thunder in a similar package to that of the previous DVD release: barebones! Yep, we’ve returned to the days of early DVD releases, with our only extra being a Theatrical Trailer (2:25, HD). There aren’t even any menu animations or music to check out here; it’s an incredibly disappointing package, but even with that having been said it might be worth the upgrade, simply because of the $10 rebate included inside. It really depends on how much you want to trade up your barebones DVD for a barebones Blu-ray, complete with firmware upgrade notice insert and grey wash disc art.
Of course the reason to upgrade to this edition would be the AVC encoded 1080p 2.35:1 video that is a fair enough example of the format. Colors are tight, detail is high and overall I don’t really have any complaints about the transfer. It is a tad bit aged looking so it may not be as crisp as your modernly shot film, but after a disappointing string of Paramount releases that really looked rather flat, the depth and definition on this transfer was a bit more than I expected. Granted, expecting mediocrity and getting a step above that isn’t amazing, but if you need to watch this film on a giant TV or projector, you’ll definitely get a better picture here than you would from the DVD, although I’m sure that really goes without saying.
The audio here is a highly impressive Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix that is just as you’d expect: thunderous. Each race rattles the room and every time an engine turns over the rumble fills the room. It’s definitely a fun experience for the noise if nothing else, although those nearby may not think the same unless they’re watching the film with you. Surrounds are used adequately and I didn’t notice any distortion or hiss while watching the film, so this isn’t a bad upgrade if you have the right equipment to play it. Also included are French and Spanish DD5.1 tracks, as well as English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles.
And…that’s it. As previously mentioned the trailer is the only extra here, so sadly there’s no retrospective. Honestly the box office intake wasn’t that bad that I didn’t think they’d at least revisit this with at least a retrospective featurette, but I’m guessing no one involved really wanted to cop to this one, so who knows. As is if you already own the previous DVD edition and are satisfied with it than you’ll want to Skip this release; if you’re a big fan, however, then it may be worth picking up considering you can get $10 back fairly easily.
Days of Thunder arrives on Blu-ray on December 30th.