This review is of the TV-14 edited version of the film. All thoughts below should be addressed as a review of the unedited version would likely be more negative
Blue Thunder is one of those films that has a fairly interesting plot but also unlikable main characters. There is one particularly egregious scene which realllllllly ends up hurting the movie as well. Ultimately if you are looking for those rare helicopter fight scenes then this one should be the ticket for you but otherwise it’s definitely time for a good skip. Watch Top Gun 2 instead for a solid film involving aerial combat.
The film starts off by introducing us to Frank and Richard who are two helicopter pilots who basically do frequent patrols around the neighborhood to make sure everything is going well. Well one day they come across a crime that seems like a potential mugging but the victim was a councilwoman and she ends up dying. It was a very odd neighborhood for this kind of attack and Frank notices things that don’t make sense around the area which all get missed in the police report. Unfortunately he doesn’t have much of a leg to stand on as he’s already known to not be the best at just following orders and his boss thinks he is sort of going off the ravine again. Can Frank get to the bottom of this mystery?
See, this is normally where you’re supposed to get annoyed at the boss because he’s slowing Frank down and not letting him do his job. Usually that’s the case at least but here’s the problem, Frank actually is a very bad employee. It’s not even one of those things where it’s close. He abuses his power in order to spy on people. The worst scene in the whole film is Frank and Richard invading a lady’s privacy and staring at her through the window from long range so she can’t see them. It’s really an awful scene all around and well past the boundaries of being even remotely funny. It’s just inappropriate and that alone should cost them their badge.
So when Frank is getting upset about the bosses zeroing in on him…well he definitely earned it. That scene also has nothing to do with the film and seemed to only have been added as fanservice. Cut that out and the film is immediately a lot better. The worst part is that the characters don’t really pay for that. Sure Richard has a painful time during the film to be sure but it’s not directly related to this scene. Then Frank gets to play the hero as he runs around blasting at everyone.
The film is at its best when it’s focused on the actual mystery. For example Frank’s friend Kate helps him out by going to the reporters and we get a fun little side plot near the end. One of the villains even sends a goon after her but fortunately she didn’t fall for the trap and then the reporter came through in time with the security guard. That was definitely fairly tense and the reporter was impressive. He felt like he could have been the lead in a different film.
As for the main villain Cochrane, the guy is definitely not very subtle about being a villain but when there is so much corruption in the ranks why would you bother hiding right? The guy can basically do whatever he wants to a large extent and it’s not like anybody is going to be able to stop him. He’s just going to do whatever he wants and will keep on doing it until someone can stop him. He plays the villain role well and is the most entertaining character in the film to be sure. The guy’s just so sarcastic the whole time.
The effects for the helicopter scenes definitely hold up really well too. I’ve always preferred planes in most areas since I feel like they are faster, more agile, better equipped, etc. But you still don’t want to underestimate the Helicopters because there is a lot that they can do. Part of the focus in the film is that they are testing an experimental one which will have so much firepower that it is basically a mini army in its own right. The dilemma here is obviously that having so much firepower within the city is a huge risk, especially if it’s in the hands of someone like Frank.
I’d say he proves that he’s not trustworthy for using it throughout the film. It also has a lot of invasive hardware in it like a super long range scanner to hear anything anyone says from any range. Not exactly the kind of tech that you just want anyone to have right? It was even funny in a way how in the army demo the company gave we saw a ton of innocent people being destroyed in the simulations. There just isn’t a way to get this kind of weaponry to ever be super safe without some collateral damage. Not without some kind of big technological breakthrough at least. The action scenes are good though and the film’s pacing is on point.
Overall, This film had potential but that one scene just dragged on way too long and was way too detailed. It also destroyed both main characters in an instant to the point where they were impossible to root for. The conspiracy angle was done well although most films have done it better. We get some minor hand to hand kind of action here but mainly it’s about the vehicles and that is handled well. I still wouldn’t recommend this film but it’s fairly close to the border of being a solid pic. If you can get behind that one moment of Frank being the villain then you should have a good time here.