Sunday 28 November 2010

Movie Review: Blue Thunder (1983)

A movie that exists for the primary purpose of showcasing helicopter acrobatics, Blue Thunder provides only a bit of fun as it plunders through the usual macho-cliches and government conspiracy puddles.

In the skies of Los Angeles, a police unit uses helicopters to support ground officers and help keep the peace. Veteran pilot Frank Murphy (Roy Scheider) is the local maverick, capable of exceptional flying tricks but haunted by his combat experiences flying in Vietnam. A sinister new chopper is brought in for testing: unlike the regular police helicopters, Blue Thunder is tricked out with a massive amount of weapons, technology and armor.

Murphy's old adversary, the slimy Colonel Cochrane (Malcolm McDowell), seems keen to bring the military-style Blue Thunder into police service, and soon there are hints at a conspiracy to manufacture civil strife in order to justify pushing the heavy-handed chopper into service. After his partner (Daniel Stern) is killed, Murphy gets help from his girlfriend (Candy Clark) and takes matters into his own hands, stealing Blue Thunder to expose the evil plot. 

The storyline of Blue Thunder is crass and conspiratorial, with basic performances to match from cast members who are capable of better, including Warren Oates in one of his last roles as Murphy's long suffering Captain. Director John Badham chooses efficiency over style, and is a lot more interested in the machinery than the people. The agitation by technology is enabled by high-tech and futuristic gizmos packed into Blue Thunder, in a triumph of impressive hardware over good storytelling. 

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