Days of Thunder Review

Even the great innovator, Tony Scott, could not be stopped by the pratfalls and ridiculousness of stock car racing. It has an untimely, inevitable shtick attached to it where the stereotypes of the drivers infect the core mechanics of what is, essentially, a race. No twists, turns or obstacles, just a track that goes around and around. Turning that monotony into something as thrilling as Days of Thunder is no small feat of endurance. But knowing the tokenisms of Scott’s direction, and how well he works when collaborating with Tom Cruise, we can hold out hope on Days of Thunder delivering some layer of fast-paced, action-packed enjoyability. 

Evidently so, the cracks of dawn and uplifting music are part and parcel of the Hollywood concept, but Scott opens his movie on the Daytona USA-branded stadium with all the affability and freewheeling style of Top Gun. That montage shot with the dated music ring true, and as that trio of American flagships flap in the wind (Pepsi, Confederate, American) and the ensemble credits roll, there is an express desire to give an uplifting feeling. These are the hardworking hotheads that will entertain tens of people with their fast cars and faster decision making. But for all the holes we can poke in the Americanised way, Scott makes it compact enough to engage with. Its romances are inevitable, and with Nicole Kidman in tow, it is at least an engaging interlude, but the nature of its inclusion is not one of inspiration, but conformity and necessity.  

Further still, Cruise and company make for an excellent reason to throw yourself into this story. Tough characters pave the way, and Cole Trickle (Cruise) is one of the very many. Entering on the back of a motorbike with a denim jacket and thick sunglasses to boot, Scott’s intentions are plain and in full view. He is the slick hotshot that is unafraid of danger, and the changes between this and his work in Top Gun are vaguely identifiable. He spars well with Michael Rooker and Robert Duvall. Within that triangle of hate comes the old engineer who cannot trust the freewheeling, dangerous notions of Trickle and the jealous, established NASCAR racer who is, of course, envious of Trickle’s rise to the top. The trail comes off clean enough, and Scott crafts a relatively fun feature, one that certainly lacks subtlety, but does not need it.  

An ungodly pairing of red, white and blue patriotism and the beer-drinking brilliance that comes with it. It almost makes you proud to be an American, which is startling since America is across the pond from old, reliable, little England. Days of Thunder oozes confidence and charm, with good fun at its heart and a delicate story of racers beating not the clock, but one another. They hate one another. It is a professional necessity. But here, Scott uses it to pry at their fears and desires, most of which are to win races and to not die. Simple but effective. Essentially Top Gun for those that are scared of heights, yet gracefully capturing the feeling that other Cruise-led feature clambers for. Cheesy remnants of the 1980s linger on this project that hurls these stars into the unforgiving light of the 1990s, but it is hopeful to see so many survived that change of pace.  

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