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DAVID CARRADINE & KATE JACKSON IN 'THUNDER & LIGHTING'

Car chase in THUNDER & LIGHTNING
Around the same time as Ingmar Bergman's THE SERPENT'S EGG and Hal Ashby's BOUND FOR GLORY, David Carradine, free from his career-making stint on TV's KUNG FU, had some moonshine downtime in the everglades...

Although only the opening twenty minutes takes place knee-deep in the muddy water during a local goon bully session, leading to a vengeful fan-boat chase (ala LIVE AND LET DIE), and while the film peaks early, there's still loads of adventure left during a prolonged car chase that takes up the entire second half, mirroring (not copying) that exact same year's "grungy maverick with a fancy dame in a fast car" road run in the wildly popular SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT. The characters that'd been... well... fleshed-out – enough for this kind of movie – are all but forgotten and/or completely insignificant when action trumps storyline... Hell, it doesn't even matter what names these people have after a while, or who's in the cast, although, THUNDER & LIGHTING is a nostalgic TV fanatic's dream as Carradine's near-past ("Knock off the Kung Fu shit!" Charles Napier growls during a fight), and Jackson's role on CHARLIE'S ANGELS following an eclectic small-screen career ranging from THE JIMMY STEWART SHOW sit-com to a Movie of the Week exploitively titled: SATAN'S SCHOOL FOR GIRLS.

Poster for Thunder and Lightning 1978
Fanning through the water or roaring over roadsides, pretty much anyone could have been driving the long stretch of highway where things wind up, just beyond the wet marshes that provided a misleading rudimentary impression on what the landscape would be, and it's a long, long road at that...

Too bad because the plot's buildup is actually somewhat intriguing, putting a spin on the cliche moonshine motif: Kate Jackson's crooked father runs competing 'shine against her boyfriend Carradine's makeshift yet good quality swamp-still (run by underdog character-actor Sterling Holloway) while dad's soda company turns out crap including six gallons of toxic rotgut. But crime doesn't pay. While Carradine has good ol' boys, a beautiful girl and a vintage car on his side, the token heavy has thugs either breathing down his neck or out for his hyde: Soon enough, everyone's caught in the crossfire – Carradine breezing his way throughout like he did in some of his pictures (BOUND FOR GLORY, THE LONG RIDERS and KILL BILL are a few grand exceptions), yet he maintains an organic worldweary realism: when it matters most, he means what he says and, doing a lot of his own stunts, the hard work shows.
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