I took a trip down memory lane with Days of Thunder, the action-packed romance surrounding a group of maverick stock car drivers. The experience was just as I expected — thrilling and testosterone driven — the perfect antidote to the midweek blues.
Directed by the late Tony Scott, the film stars Tom Cruise riding high in the wake of his late eighties run of Cocktail, Rain Man & Born on The Fourth of July (!!!). According to this behind the scenes teaser, Cruise brought the project to mega producers Don Simpson & Jerry Bruckheimer.
Heavyweight titans of the popcorn trade, the producing duo were all too happy to invest their time and energy. Hiring the legendary Robert Towne to pen the screenplay (Chinatown anyone?) the $60 million project featured an action-packed cast including Robert Duvall, Michael Rooker and a quietly magnetic Cary Elwes.
This was Scott’s second rodeo with Cruise after Top Gun, the fighter pilot bromance that broke the back of the box office with a $350 million theatrical run. In many ways Days of Thunder is nothing more than Top Gun’s kid brother, replacing multi-million dollar fighter jets with custom built sports cars.
Both films celebrate the need for speed, of toys devised by men for the consumption of men. With a triumphalist score by the one and only Hans Zimmer, there is so much chest beating and hollow bravado that you can’t help howling to the moon. Perhaps that’s why the original has a sequel in the works.
Scott did the impossible, finding a sense of drama in the banality of fast cars driving round a pit, much like a dog trying to catch its tail. I’d never given NASCAR more than a millisecond of my time yet Scott’s mastery infuses the sport with a sense of mystery. It helped me to comprehend the sheer brashness of these hot-headed punks, the kind of maniacs who chase their thrills the way I chase cocktails at happy hour.
It was pretty exciting to witness the love story unravel between Cruise and a baby-faced Nicole Kidman. This was the twenty-two year old’s Hollywood debut following Dead Calm (read all about it in my post last week) and her allure is remarkable, made even more exotic with her Australian twang.
You almost forget she’s playing the role of a doctor charged with making life-threatening decisions. Hell, she could operate on me any day. That their on-screen romance would lead to their eventual off-screen marriage is especially exciting. No matter what the yellow press says, life imitating art is always some kind of special.