Thunder Road is a great movie about a very messed up dude

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      Starring Jim Cummings. Rating unavailable

      Membership has its privileges. And someone born white, male, and middle-class in a mid-size Texas town could easily think he should have an easy ride—especially if his ride is a shiny police cruiser.

      But for Officer Jim Arnaud, who insists he “did everything right,” everything keeps going wrong. Really wrong.

      Arnaud is played by up-and-comer Jim Cummings, who also wrote, directed, and composed the highly original music (mostly ukulele, organ, and cello) for this disturbingly funny tour de brute force.

      Shot in the Austin area, although unidentified as such, Thunder Road is named after someone else’s song, a favourite of the officer’s late mother, a popular ballet instructor. The film’s bravura opening—a 12-minute variation on the short Cummings put out two years ago—has him attempting, and failing, to play the tune on his daughter’s tiny pink boom box.

      No matter: he’ll perform the dance routine he worked out for it anyway.

      The fragility of masculine performance is being interrogated here, although no one articulates this, fortunately. “Are you good?” and “I’m fine” are the handiest tokens of conversation between Jim and his sympathetic black partner (excellent newcomer Nican Robinson), even when they’re attending funerals, suicides, or violent assaults in the line of duty.

      Arnaud is a well-trained cop, but he’s not good, or fine, at anything that doesn’t have clearly defined rules and roles. He lives in a Trumpian landscape of profit and loss—one in which winners do plenty of whining about how much they hate their own lives. Outbursts, meltdowns, tantrums, and tearful apologies are always on the menu.

      For a change, race doesn’t matter much here, but sex sure does. Dudes may be flailing, but the women in Jim’s life buy no bullshit. His angry ex-wife (Jocelyn DeBoer) and sullen, erstwhile sister (Chelsea Edmundson) don’t hesitate to call out Jim’s dumber moves.

      In particular, nine-year-old daughter Crystal (Kendal Farr), who sees him on weekends, is dismayed at her dad’s cluelessness. Fortunately, Jim’s genuine need to connect with her offers one ray of redemption in a superbly crafted tale of lost souls still bravely capable of being found.