March 14, 2023

WHO’LL STOP THE RAIN: The Vivid Reminder

1978 / 127 min
Review by Mr. Paws😺

Somewhat forgotten over time - at least by this author - revisiting Who'll Stop the Rain after all these years was a vivid reminder what a formidable screen presence Nick Nolte was back in the day. Still young and (relatively) fresh-faced, I don’t know if he was ever mistaken for versatile, but he was just coming into his prime as an earnest actor adept at portraying antiheroes.

And they don’t get much more antiheroic than Ray Hicks, a merchant marine during the Vietnam War who’s coerced by old buddy John Converse (Michael Moriarty) into smuggling a kilo of heroin into the U.S. All he has to do is bring it to John's wife, Marge (Tuesday Weld), and he’ll collect a thousand bucks. However, one doesn’t simply sneak-in a load of smack without other interested parties getting involved. In this case, it’s crooked FBI agent Antheil (Anthony Zerbe) and his hired thugs, who show up to snatch the drugs for themselves.

Ray and Marge manage to escape with the kilo and go on the run, heading to California in hopes of finding a new buyer (with the amount they’re carrying, that’s easier said than done). Meanwhile, Antheil beats and kidnaps John, then drags him along while pursuing Hicks. 

"Left at Albequerque...just like the rabbit said."
Part crime drama, part road movie, Who’ll Stop the Rain is fairly light on action, but still manages to create tension with its bad-guys-vs.-worse guys-scenario. And while Ray is morally ambiguous at-best (his solution to dealing with Marge’s opiate withdrawl is to give her heroin), but we’re definitely invested in him and Nolte provides just the right measures of toughness, cynicism and vulnerability. The entire supporting cast is great, as well. Zerbe has always made an effective villain, while Moriarty’s performance, in some ways, reminded me of his role as Jimmy Quinn in the crazy creature feature, Q - The Winged Serpent, in that both characters seem blissfully unaware they’re in way over their heads. 

Overall, the performances are the best part of the movie, which ain’t exactly a barrel of laughs and is sometimes a bit meandering. But while no classic, Who’ll Stop the Rain is a great reminder that Nick Nolte was once a compelling leading man who excelled at playing flawed characters. 


INTERVIEWS - Individual interviews with actor Richard Masur, associate producer Roger Spottiswoode & co-screenwriter Judith Rascoe.

AUDIO COMMENTARY - By film historians Daniel Kremer & Scout Tafoya.


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