Iron Thunder Reviews

Classic questions about the relationship between man and his machines are imaginatively explored in IRON THUNDER. Its combination of Richard (BATTLESTAR GALACTICA) Hatch's best performance to date, an imaginative concept and an often exciting story, make this a rare indie winner.

Iron Thunder is exciting, intelligent and imaginative -- plus, it actually has something to say. What more could you ask for in a Sci-fi tale?

Man-tank mindmeld weapon errantly races toward Las Vegas! A low-budget film, but packing lots of bang per buck. Hatch proves he can be more than the teenie – bop hero of (Battlestar) Galactica era.

The woman has a strong role; there’s lively dialog, some humor; and good hand to hand action– not just a tank blowing everything up. Somewhat like the Roy Scheider film about the helicopter but developed more along the lines of a (David) Cronenberg /Philip K. Dick what-sort-of-mutants-are-we-making-of-ourselves type message.

With IRON THUNDER, director Jay Woelfel re-explores some of the themes dealing with subjective reality and consciousness found in his first feature, BEYOND DREAM'S DOOR, this time substituting virtual technology for the dream realm. In the process he paints a bleak portrait of man's ever increasing dependency on technology and how it will ultimately betray us. Pretty deep stuff for a b-action flick, eh? It's no wonder Woelfel considers this to be his best film, it's polished and clean, and still retains all his personal philosophies. The ability to weave one's world view into their art is what sets a true filmmaker apart from an everyday director. Steven Soderberg once said that he could teach anyone to direct in 10 minutes, the basics are easy to get down. But it takes a lifetime to come up with something to say. And quite often, directors today have absolutely nothing to say.

In IRON THUNDER, Richard Hatch, looking only slightly older than his Battlestar Gallactica days, is an army tank commander taking part in an experiment designed to meld the gap between man and machine. The goal of the project is to produce quicker reaction time, and more effective soldiers, by fusing the subject's minds directly into the tank's computer system. The final product should be a faster killing machine that's still subject to a conscious. From the opening scene we know that Hatch's character, Colonel Nelson, is close to edge himself. In a single-take monologue, Hatch offers up a heart-tugging summation of Nelson's experiences as a career infantryman and how the decades of combat and killing have affected him as a man - he's numb to everything life has to offer. When he finally loses his grip on reality all his fears come to the surface and he deals with the them in the only manner a soldier truly knows how, combat. Richard Hatch has always been a naturally low-key actor, preferring to minimalize his gestures and actions, opting instead to convey emotions through vocal pauses, tonal inflection, and subtle facial expressions. You can see this going back to his days as the reluctant hero Apollo on Battlestar Galactica. As Nelson, Hatch turns in what is probably one of his finest performances as he conveys a character driven by anger and confusion, and keeps him entirely sympathetic. Nelson isn't so much a villain as he is the byproduct of a more abstract concept, man's unfaltering ability to forget his origins. The bulk of the movie is comprised of a cat and mouse game between Nelson, jacked into the Iron Thunder tank and on his way to destroy Las Vegas, and a group of pursuers tracking him with Thunder's prototype. Where the pursuers have the ability to interact and bring story to the forefront, Hatch isn't afforded that luxury. Alone in the Iron Thunder, he's given the thankless job of revealing emotional and structural exposition nearly every time he opens his mouth. Easily explained in Woelfel's script through the character's dementia, it's Hatch's downbeat approach that sells the words. It's rare to see an action movie that's actor-intensive as opposed to effects-intensive, but when that's the case the result is a better tangibility between audience and film. Tension is heightened through the emotional connection, and the action elements, even when on a smaller scale, resonate more powerfully. The result is a movie bigger than it's cost. The result this time is IRON THUNDER.