May 18, 2020

DAYS OF THUNDER (Paramount Presents #5): The Adventures of Top Car
Starring Tom Cruise, Robert Duvall, Nicole Kidman, Michael Rooker, Cary Elwes, Randy Quaid. Directed by Tony Scott. (107 min)

Review by Tiger the Terrible😼

I know a lot of you are terribly distraught that the release date for the long-gestating sequel to Top Gun has been pushed back due to the ongoing pandemic. But in the meantime, why not amuse yourself with its other sequel?

That “sequel,” of course, is “Top Car,” better known as Days of Thunder, which follows the Top Gun blueprint so closely that one could almost accuse Tom Cruise and director Tony Scott of self-plagiarism. But lets not hold that against them, since it remains a lot of flashy, frivolous fun and a vast improvement over Cruise’s previous sequel, “Top Bar” (aka Cocktail).

You know the formula. Cruise is another cocky hot-shot with a cool name, this time NASCAR driver Cole Trickle. Over the next 107 minutes, he drives fast, gets schooled, gets mentored, finds love, loses love, finds it again, makes enemies, makes frenemies, faces tragedy, becomes conflicted, soul-searches and finally waxes philosophical about what really matters in life (which is, of course, the need for speed). Throw in a soundtrack of booming power ballads and you’ve got Top Gun on a racetrack, minus the homoerotic volleyball scene.

Guess who just got a look at their paychecks.
Days of Thunder is #5 in the Paramount Presents series, consisting of some of the studio’s iconic films. Paramount currently appears to be focusing on the era when they pretty-much dominated the box office with high-concept commercial blockbusters (roughly 1977-1990). As such, you kinda have to include a Tom Cruise movie, don’t you? Might as well be this one, which not-only features Cruise at his Cruisiest, but typically flamboyant direction by the late Tony Scott, still honing the critic-confounding aesthetic sensibilities that made him the Michael Bay of his day.

Like other films in this series, Days of Thunder is nicely remastered with improved picture and sound, enhancing the kinetic racing scenes, not-to-mention David Coverdale’s already-sinus-clearing theme song. But for me, the niftiest aspect is the packaging, which folds-open to reveal the film’s original poster art. The series is obviously intended for those of us who still take pride in displaying how we've blown our discretionary income.

One might argue that Top Gun would have been the more logical choice for the Paramount Presents series, since it was one of the studio’s biggest ‘80s films and created the template for what Roger Ebert would cheekily dub “the Tom Cruise picture.” For all I know, they plan on including it later (perhaps closer the Top Gun: Maverick’s release date). In the meantime, it’s kind-of cool that they went with the less-obvious choice, reminding us that we actually got a Top Gun “sequel” 30 years ago, and a pretty fun one at that.

"FILMMAKER FOCUS” - Retrospective interview with producer Jerry Bruckheimer.

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