Valhalla Cinema: Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, 1974- Clint Eastwood & Jeff Bridges Become a Great Criminal Duo

Thunderbolt and Lightfoot
This post was originally posted at The New Democrat

I just saw Thunderbolt and Lightfoot for like the tenth or twentieth time on Thursday night, because it is one of my favorite movies. It is classic Clint Eastwood in one of his classic action comedies, which he’s a master of. But this time he’s not playing the ass-kicking tough guy who comes in, plays hero and saves the day. This time he plays a criminal, not a murderer who goes on a murder spree, but a thief and bank robber who is sort of on the run from two guys he use to work with, who think John Thunderbolt played by Clint screwed them on their last job.

The best Jeff Bridges movie of all-time at least for me and that includes The Big Lebowski, which is a top three comedy for me. Jeff Bridges plays Lightfoot, Lightfoot’s first name in the movie never comes out. He plays a drifter whose been drifting since getting kicked out of boarding school as a teenager. The movie takes place up in the Northwest between Idaho and Montana. Thunderbolt is on the run from his former cronies and in hiding trying to pass as a preacher in rural Idaho.

His former partner Red Leary played by George Kennedy tracks down Thunderbolt at his church and literally takes shots at Thunderbolt in his church as he’s delivering his sermon. Thunderbolt escapes and runs through a cornfield where he’s almost run over by Lightfoot in a Pontiac Trans Am, that he just stole several miles back. Thunderbolt jumps in the car and that is where their partnership is formed.

The first half hour of the movie or so, it is really just about Thunderbolt and Lightfoot trying to survive and move around in Idaho. Robbing and stealing to get by, until Thunderbolt’s former partners in their last bank heist catch up to them. And they are talking about the Montana bank that they robbed that none of them were able to collect from because they were almost caught and had to stash the money, which is what Thunderbolt actually did with the money. Instead of stealing all of it from himself, he hid it so he could come back to it when the heat was off.

Lightfoot gets the idea that they should try to do the same job again and rob the same bank. The four of them, Thunderbolt, Red Leary and Eddie Goody played by Geoffrey Lewis to go along with Lightfoot. Which is what they end up doing, except they run into the same problems as they did the last time. Even though they are robbing a small bank in a small town at night, the heat catches up to them quickly, because it is probably the only bank in this small Montana town. So now they are on the run again without being able to enjoy what they stole.

Thunderbolt and Lightfoot finally manage to split up from Leary and Goody and go back to where Thunderbolt stashed the money he stole from the last bank job. And they get away with the money and buy a brand spanking new Cadillac convertible and celebrate with cigars. This is a classic Eastwood action comedy with the sarcasm and quick one-liners, with crazy characters that play major roles in the movie. Perhaps George Kennedy’s funniest role and classic Geoffrey Lewis playing someone who doesn’t seem completely there, but plays a key role in the movie.

About Rik Schneider

Blogger/writer on a lot of different subjects.
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