THE BLUE LIGHTNING (1986)
Directed by: Lee Phillips
Screenplay: William Kelley
Screenplay: William Kelley
Starring: Sam Elliot, Rebecca Gilling & Robert Culp
Now this one is a treat: the living moustached legend that is Sam Elliot, great Australian locations, hard boiled banter, hard edged action and Robert Culp having a hoot as the slippery bad guy, The Blue Lightning is the true definition of a hidden gem. In fact, quite literally as Elliot’s tough and gruff private eye, Wingate, is shipped off to Australia in search of an elusive opal which, wouldn’t you know it, is in the hands of Culp’s dastardly villain, McInally. Throw in the very attractive Rebecca Gilling as Wingate’s would be guide (and who is also in search of her missing estranged husband), some cool outback inhabitants Wingate teams up with and a surprising amount of wicked action scenes and The Blue Lightning deserves to be rediscovered.
While the opening and closing credits are distinctly TV-movie in style (which this originally was), the flick feels very cinematic in its execution and much like a fully fledged 80s action flick. From the get go we see that Culp’s McInally is a complete bastard (with wobbly Irish accent to boot!) and rules over a small Australian town and its opal mine with an iron fist (complete with his own underground James Bond style lair: awesome! ). Culp, while not in it nearly enough, seems to be having a whale of a time and is equal amounts vicious and over-the-top. Elliot meanwhile is all cool and confident but very likeable as the PI with a ‘tache and shares great chemistry with leading lady Gilling. It’s obvious they have the hots for one another from the get go and it’s nice to see the two characters getting along, trading banter, and warming to each other for most of the running time rather than spending a good chunk of it hating each other and bickering only to fall in love come the end. Elliot also shares good chemistry with the outback fellas who rescue him and ultimately teams up with. John Mellion of Crocodile Dundee fame is in there as a booze doused doctor and there is a nice subplot featuring Wingate bonding rather touchingly with one of the local aborigines, their two cultures finding common ground.
While the drama is nicely played and the banter delivered with aplomb (meaning there are some laughs along the way), The Blue Lightning is stuffed with great action. From chases, to a great bar fight, to an impressive amount of gun battles the film rips along at a speedy pace. There is an impressively sustained running chase/gun battle with a couple of McInally’s goons, an equally impressive bit that involves a plane and a giant Australian road train (!) and oodles of machine gun spraying and shotgun blasting action all delivered in that rough and tough 80s way we all know and love. Elliot’s character is often so fearless (bordering on stupid!) that he seems to openly walk in and welcomes any fist fights or gun battles he can get himself into. This is a crackerjack gem, which may be a little low key compared to other 80s action juggernauts, but holds its own in the hard action and cool character departments.
Check it out.