I know full well that comparing one movie to another is more an easy shorthand to point to success or failures, than a true barometer of what any title sets out to do. But, doing so allows the critic specific illustrative moments to point to between both titles. So, aside from the broad plot outline, what do the two movies have in common? Well, their tone and style of humor are very similar, so this is an apple to apple comparison. In Rolling Thunder, when Wes Studi confronts Benny about also directing, the young filmmaker says that he “…wanted to be the art director,” and Wes counters with “I wanted to take things in an artistic direction.” This comedic misunderstanding feels like it is from a sitcom and, given the poor characterization, never lands as intended.
“…slightly amusing, but not all that interesting.”
In Brutal Massacre, a substantial portion of the opening is spent on establishing who the fictional director Henry Penderecki is, his vision for movies, and such. By contrast, Benny Blake dreams of directing films for the MCU and is inexperienced; neither is compelling enough to hang a whole movie. And he is the only character who is prominent enough to have anything resembling an arc. While there is some fun to be found in Rolling Thunder with Mantegna and Studi playing versions of themselves, they do not create forward momentum or move the story along. Essentially, the comedy is just a series of events unfolding, that are slightly amusing, but not all that interesting.
And that is a crying shame, as Rolling Thunder features some decent performances and has funny moments. But, it is not enough to recommend it, as the movie is just so bland, with no interesting characters or a story structure to keep you engaged. Skip Rolling Thunder and track down Brutal Massacre instead.
"…track down Brutal Massacre instead."