Michael Cimino Jay Cocks - Essay

Jay Cocks

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The best thing … about Thunderbolt and Lightfoot is its quality of going over familiar territory and coming up with things never quite expected. This is Director-Writer Michael Cimino's first film, and he demonstrates a scrupulously controlled style that lends sinew even to such usually dreary scenes as the preparations for the robbery and strategies of escape.

In his feeling for the almost reflexive defenses of masculine camaraderie and for its excesses, with his eye and grudging affection for Western lowlife, Cimino has an obvious affinity for the work of Sam Peckinpah. What really animates Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, though, and makes it distinctive is its shellbursts of lunatic comedy…. This movie adeptly creates the sort of antic cartoon world where crooks case the getaway route in ice cream carts, disarm a security guard by dressing in drag, and break into a bank vault by the simple expedient of blasting it with an enormous antitank gun.

The movie is shaky when the friendship between Thunderbolt and Lightfoot is sentimentalized, and at the end, when invention gives in to a mawkish resolution…. Cimino himself renders most of the movie with enough cunning to make it one of the most ebullient and eccentric diversions around.

Jay Cocks, "Ebullient Heist," in Time (reprinted by permission from Time, The Weekly Newsmagazine; copyright Time Inc. 1974), Vol. 103, No. 23, June 10, 1974, p. 83.