“Days of Thunder” is an attempt to retheme “Top Gun” into a movie about car racing. The young hothead that doesn’t follow the rules, the mentor that tries to get him in line, the female authority figure that becomes a love interest, the rival that becomes a friend - it’s all there. Unfortunately, none of these plot points are done as well as they are in “Top Gun.” The movie’s full-throttle race sequences are entertaining because of imaginative cinematography and clever editing, but the story is all over the place. Between a crew chief seeking redemption, a driver learning to race, and a weak love story that feels out of place, it is difficult to identify the film’s identity. “Top Gun’s” love story is iconic and relevant to the story but “Days of Thunder” would have been better if the love story was completely omitted. It is used more as a comic device than as a key factor in the transformation of the main character. On top of that, there is way too much unnecessary swearing for an action movie about NASCAR. If you removed the 90% of profanity that has no bearing on the plot and a suggestive love scene, this film could carry a PG-rating, making it ideal for families (these cars are so cool for young boys) but edgy enough to satisfy adults and critics. The acting is a bit of an anomaly. The performances of Robert Duvall, Michael Rooker, and Tom Cruise (in his racecar driver capacity) are all well done. But once Cruise’s character dons his romantic side and pairs up with Nicole Kidman, both actors suddenly lose their charm. The love story is so inconsequential that it makes the characters unlikable. The real story is between the driver and his mentor. “Days of Thunder” is not the most original film nor is it the most interesting. If you watch this film, be prepared for stereotypes alternated with breathtaking race sequences.
[Pictured: Tom Cruise makes a great racecar driver but the love story is weak]