Though not the greatest action director, John Badham still managed to make decent films that entertain and BLUE THUNDER is among them. Made right on the cusp of today’s modern action films (that would be perfected with DIE HARD and LETHAL WEAPON), it has their flavor but still harkens back to the more laid back style of the late 1970’s.
Frank Murphy (Roy Scheider) is an ex-Vietnam pilot and now provides safety in the air for the Los Angeles Police Dept as part of their helicopter unit. He manages to ruffle the feathers of his superiors quite often but cares about his job and the citizens he protects to earn their respect.
He gets chosen to help test out an experimental new police helicopter known as “Blue Thunder” which combines hi-tech surveillance with state of the art military armaments. Concerned that military weapons are being deployed against civilians, Frank still takes the job to keep a close eye on what the police have in store.
At first he’s impressed by the new technology but when he discovers the true nature of what “Blue Thunder” could mean to the future of law enforcement, he goes rogue and steals the copter before any real harm can be done with it.
Col. Cochrane (Malcolm McDowell), a former war “buddy” of Frank’s, is tasked with bringing him down, but due to Blue Thunder’s hi-tech weapons, that’s going to be harder than he thought.
BLUE THUNDER is fairly conventional from a plot standpoint, but the helicopter action is quite well done. “Blue Thunder” itself is quite impressive and there is a certain fanboy giddiness to watching cool helicopters engage in warfare over the street of LA.
The venerable Roy Scheider is perfectly cast and ads a gravitas to the film that could have been squandered in less capable hands. Unfortunately McDowell chews up the scenery but this is par for the course of 80’s action films.
There are some lapses of organic logic within BLUE THUNDER but not enough to harm what is an enjoyable movie-watching experience. Definitely a popcorn film and worth a look if you are a fan of such fare.