Who’ll Stop the Rain? (1978)

“I’ve been waiting all my life to fuck up like this.”

Synopsis:
A cynical Vietnam vet (Michael Moriarty) convinces his buddy (Nick Nolte) to smuggle heroin back to his wife (Tuesday Weld) in the United States — but two hitmen (Ray Sharkey and Richard Masur) working for a crooked cop (Anthony Zerbe) are soon on their tail, forcing Nolte and Weld to flee.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary notes that while Karel Reisz’s adaptation of Robert Stone’s 1974 novel Dog Soldiers may “not [be] as sordid in its depiction of Vietnam-U.S. drug trafficking”, it “still packs a wallop” in its portrayal of a “fascinating true-to-life storyline that other directors wouldn’t touch because there is no ‘hero’ fighting for what we’d think is a worthy cause.” He notes that while it’s “not for the squeamish”, given that the “characters are extremely brutal” and the “action scenes are frightening”, it nonetheless possesses many strengths, given that the “characters are memorable, casting is perfect, dialogue is sharp, and direction of actors strong”. The final shoot-out in the hills of New Mexico (reminiscent of a western) is particularly exciting, and makes creative use of sound and music. (As Peary notes, the “picture has an excellent, eclectic score”.)

While it’s essentially a crime thriller, Who’ll Stop the Rain? is heavily driven by a core set of noteworthy performances. Nolte, “looking fit, is an action hero to rival Rambo”, and is eminently believable in his role — though one can’t help wishing a bit more of his personality was revealed or explained; at one point he’s referred to as a psychopath, but, despite his propensity towards violence, this clearly isn’t an accurate assessment. Meanwhile, Moriarty (who Peary notes it’s nice to see “in a non-neurotic role”) perfectly captures the quiet, jaded cynicism of a man who has seen far too much violence and “lunacy” during the war to remain idealistic; and Weld’s portrayal as his wife — a seemingly milquetoast bookstore employee and mother who becomes addicted to heroin during her nightmarish ordeal — is both brave and memorable (though again, one wishes the screenplay provided a bit more insight into who she is and what makes her tick). Another minor quibble: while Masur and Sharkey are appropriately menacing as the two thugs chasing after Nolte and Weld, they somehow come across a bit cartoonish at times; however, this is easy enough to overlook, as the story continues to propel us towards its bleak, violence-ridden finale.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Nick Nolte as Ray
  • Tuesday Weld as Marge
  • Michael Moriarty as John
  • The exciting final shoot-out

Must See?
Yes, for the fine performances throughout.

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One Response to “Who’ll Stop the Rain? (1978)”

  1. First viewing. Not a must.

    Generally speaking, director Reisz is something of a master at character-study films. Because of that, he was able to rope in an impressive cast for this one.

    Problem is…there’s no story. The script is the equivalent of a single sentence and nobody has very much to play. For his part, Reisz does a fine job here – but that’s saying almost nothing, considering the film still gets tiresome early…and stays there.

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