Days of Thunder (Blu-ray)

January 28, 2012 6 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Until recently, there weren’t many Tom Cruise films that were really considered bad. Now before I get this review really revved up (pardon the pun), I will say that “Days of Thunder” delivers what it’s supposed to good clean fun that doesn’t dig too deep. Yes, it’s “Top Gun” on asphalt and it’s supposed to be. It’s also no secret that Cruise and co-star Nicole Kidman met on the set of this movie which led to a nine year marriage (both have since divorced and remarried) thus making them the “Brangelina” of the 90’s. Kidman and Cruise would go onto star together in 1992’s “Far and Away” and 1999’s “Eyes Wide Shut” as well. Now a bit on NASCAR. Personally, I’ve never seen the appeal in watching cars go around in a circle, that just doesn’t seem like a good time to me. But I will say that tens of millions of fans disagree with me. Back in 1990 (when this film was made), NASCAR really wasn’t the sport it was today. A majority of the fans were in the South and it’d be another few years before the sport truly gained the notoriety it has today. But enough of that, let’s talk cars

Cruise plays Cole Trickle (perhaps one of the worst character names in film), a “Yankee” from California who wants to enter the racing scene. He has no formal training, just a cocky attitude and a willingness and desire to win. This fits perfectly with Tim Daland’s (Randy Quaid) concept as he’s trying to produce the next young star. Tim gets crotchety mechanic Harry (Robert Duvall) to join the team and the race is on (literally). We follow the crew as they sort out their growing pains and try to take down the current point leader Rowdy Burns (Michael Rooker). Naturally a rivalry develops between Cole and Rowdy and the two become friends. And wouldn’t you know it, when Cole is taken to a hospital he falls for young doctor Claire Lewicki (Nicole Kidman). Will Cole win the big event and live happily ever after or die in a fiery car crash?

Let’s face it, “Days of Thunder” is meant to be taken with a grain of salt. In fact, most movies about racing are (anyone remember Sylvester Stallone’s “Driven”?). The movie wasn’t one of Cruise’s biggest hits and shooting only went for a few months before its mid-summer 1990 release (in a summer dominated by movies like “Ghost” and “Dick Tracy”). “Days of Thunder” can only be described as a guilty pleasure and to this day, I’m still surprised that it’s a movie that Cruise agreed to do. Maybe it seemed like a good idea at the time? For some good early 90’s fare and admittedly the racing scenes are shot pretty well, check out the film. However it’s hard to re-create the original, so if you really want to see what this movie was supposed to be, check out “Top Gun” instead.

Video: How does it look?

Blu-ray is supposed to make everything better, right? Well, I found that a bit hard to swallow after the first few minutes of “Days of Thunder.” The 2.35:1 AVC HD transfer is dirty, grainy and looks about as dated as it can be. Some of the shots looked clean and clear, but by and large the print was plagued with errors. There seems to be all sorts of motion in scenes that don’t have it and the flesh tones look out of whack as well. It’s as though everyone sat in the sun too long (except Nicole Kidman, who’s porcelain skin looks flawless albeit without the aid of Botox which she now needs). This is, by far, one of the worst-looking Blu-ray movies I’ve seen and I recommend this only for die hard fans of the movie.

Audio: How does it sound?

On a slightly better note, the Dolby True HD track sounds very robust. The constant revving of the engines, the squealing of the tires and the general ambiance of the races do make for a rather enjoyable audio treat. Dialogue sounds very natural and in only a few scenes does the audio sound a bit manufactured. By and large, this soundtrack is ahead of its day and the uncompressed soundtrack does a good job at conveying that to the viewer.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Only the original theatrical trailer is present as a supplement. It’s presented in HD though, if that means anything.

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