Proof that its possible to have great performances in a questionable movie, DAYS OF THUNDER was a minor hit for young Tom Cruise that still oozes 1990 cool.
Cruise is Cole Trickle (insert your Nascar joke here) a rookie driver looking for his break to drive in the big leagues. When he pulls into the pits on a motorcycle, wrapped in slow motion, Hans Zimmer's score and endless smoke and hairspray, Cruise is the epitome of 1990 cool.
Robert Duvall gives an excellent performance as Harry Hogge, a wise, seasoned pit chief that becomes Cole's mentor. He always feels authentic, even as some cardboard characters move around him.
Nicole Kidman is a doctor that falls for Tom (they have great chemistry that led to marriage off camera), Randy Quaid (Vacation) is the team owner, Cary Elwes (The Princess Bride) is a cocky young driver and Michael Rooker (Guardians of the Galxy) is Cole's rival on the track.
This was one of John C. Reilly's first films and he's terrific as well.
It's written by Robert Towne, who also wrote "Chinatown" and 'Shampoo". He's a fantastic writer, but his script is buried in an awful lot of 90's sheen from Director Tony Scott (Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop). Cruise has also said that most of the script was thrown out and that scenes were rewritten on the fly, which may explain some of the meandering story.
Cruise is fine, the action on the track is well shot and the ending is undeniably 'Rocky"-esque and enjoyable. I also loved hearing a lot of those 90's songs on the soundtrack.
If you take it all lightly, its still a hell of a lot of fun, cheesy dialogue and all. No one does everyday heroes quite as well as Tom.
DAYS OF THUNDER makes left turn after left turn while never straying far from familiar roads, roaring its loud, guilty pleasure path to a C+.