Amazon Prime reviews: Jim Cummings’ Thunder Road

Jim Cummings on the cover of Thunder Road. Credit - Vanishing Angle
Jim Cummings on the cover of Thunder Road. Credit - Vanishing Angle /

Out of the many enjoyable titles that can be streamed on Amazon Prime, the newest addition to the bunch, Jim Cummings’ Thunder Road, is the most essential title to check out!

Amazon Prime has slowly been climbing the ranks of streaming services to provide a game alternative to the streaming juggernaut, Netflix. While the commitment of $50-$100 per year might seem a bit daunting, it is but a small price to pay for the wealth of content that has populated the service. In fact, that high price may just be worth it for the recent inclusion of the indie comedy-drama, Thunder Road.

Written, directed by, and starring filmmaker Jim Cummings, Thunder Road sees the director expand on his 2016 short film of the same name into a full-length motion picture, complete at just over 90 minutes. Serving as the visual effects artist, co-editor, and composer of the film as well, Cummings turns into a one-man wrecking machine with his feature-length drama about an officer facing the grief of his mother’s death and an ongoing custody battle for his daughter.

The plot synopsis on its own is incredibly bleak and miserable and these are tones that Cummings does not shy away from exploring in Thunder Road. The movie follows Officer Jim Arnaud slowly breaking down from the stress of his job, custody battle, and personal tragedies. But on top of that, the film ventures into dark comedic territory with a certain playfulness that occupies even the most heartbreaking scenes, giving the audience something to laugh about as they’re wiping tears from their eyes.

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The small budget may bring some limitations to what a filmmaker can do with their script. Still, Cummings proved himself able to work around such issues by crafting an intimate, devastating, and darkly hilarious character study of a man coping with grief. In the process of doing so, Cummings has created one of the best films of 2018 and easily among the most overlooked.

At the start of 2018, hardly anybody was talking about Thunder Road and now it’s a critical darling heading into the first quarter of 2019.

Jim Cummings and crew on the set of Thunder Road
Set still of Jim Cummings (center) with the crew of Thunder Road. Credit – Vanishing Angle /

A victory for indie cinema

Made on a budget of only an estimated $200,000 from a Kickstarter campaign, Thunder Road had an uphill battle to face in terms of gaining exposure to a wider audience. The short film managed to impress the folks over at Sundance and win the Short Film Grand Jury Award in the process, but there’s only so many people who pay attention to the short film section at Sundance (even the Oscars apparently don’t care enough about short films, which just makes it worse).

Despite all of this, Jim Cummings managed to secure a steady budget for the full-length version of Thunder Road, which debuted at last year’s SXSW festival and even earned the prestigious Grand Jury Prize. By then, the film had begun to attract even more attention from the public and by its release in the U.S. later that year in the fall, it garnered a modest following. While not large, it still managed to gross over $350,000 at the box office, making up for its budget and relatively low advertisement costs.

Above all else, Thunder Road is self-distributed, meaning that Jim Cummings and company were personally involved with helping distribute the film to be seen at the cinema. Whatever money is earned from paying to watch the film went back to the crew personally, effectively having no major industry support apart from word-of-mouth and good reviews. Let it be known that Thunder Road is, at its core, an independent film in every way.

Set still of Jim Cummings in Thunder Road
Jim Cummings (pictured) on the set of Thunder Road. Credit – Vanishing Angle /

That doesn’t mean that the film contains a smug, pretentious pride for itself. On the contrary, Thunder Road is easy and accessible enough to check out without too much preparation.

Cummings invites everyone in to watch the story of a man dealing with his insecurities and tragedies and he does so without having to flaunt a forced style in everyone’s faces. Thunder Road is simultaneously humble and confident in its technical and emotional strength, impressing with air-tight directing and a large beating heart to show for it.

Just when things couldn’t go any better for Cummings, Thunder Road can now add the additional label of being a Prime Video, having just been added to the Amazon Prime lineup at the beginning of the month last week. Now anyone with Prime can check out the film and see what the hype is all about. If you ask me, that’s probably one of the best-case scenarios for an indie film with self-distribution and it’s truly marvelous that the film has experienced the level of success that it currently has.

With its success, Thunder Road may prove pivotal in the second wind for American independent cinema to catch on in 2019. With superhero films, franchise blockbusters, and animated adventures dominating the American box office, an appropriate alternative could use all the help it can get in providing successful counter-programming to big-budget events in the future.

Creativity and business should work together to maintain the balance of different films in American cinema and Thunder Road may soon be considered the kickstarter for that strategy to take precedence in the world of American films.

What Lies Ahead review: A slow-burn thriller. dark. Next

Thunder Road is now available to stream on iTunes and Amazon Prime with a Prime subscription! What do you think of Thunder Road? Have you seen it and if not, would you like to? Sound off below!