Distant Thunder (1988) - full transcript

A troubled Vietnam war vet deserts his wife and child shortly after he returns from the war. He returns after 10 years, where he's been living like an animal in the forest. He finds himself unprepared for the changes that he will have to cope with, and when the vet tries to contact his son, he realizes that he has caused more damage than he had imagined.

Shut up, Billy.

If they find us, they'll kill us.

Quiet, Billy.

Shut up. Shut up, Billy. Shut up.

Shut up. Goddamn it. Shut up.

No talking. No talking.


- Where's Louis?
- That shit.

- Where is he?
- Who gives a fuck?

Come on, Jane. Where'd he go?

He said he's going to walk the track.

Let him! Let the shit!
He keeps talking about it enough!

He won't do it!


Don't fuck with me.

- I'm not gonna fuck with you.
- You're gonna fuck with me.

I'm not.

I can't tell you what happened.

- So, what happened?
- I can't tell you.


Fucking woman.
Goddamn fucking woman.

- Why, what'd she do?
- Oh, man. Shit.

Hey, Louis.

Come on over here.

- No.
- Come on.

Not this time.

- No, now.
- Don't fuck with me!

I'm not fucking with you.

That fucking glass, man.
That fucking crystal one

- she's always got a flower in.
- Yeah?

She fucking threw it at me, man.

She fucking threw it right at me.
Fucking thing hit the wall,

- smashed all to pieces.
- Hey, you've had shit

thrown at you before. Come on.

Not my fucking
wedding present, man.

My fucking wedding present
I gave her.

Don't do it.

- Louis, please. Come here.
- Don't fuck with me.

I don't want to be fucked with no more.
No more. I've fucking had it!

Louis, no.

It don't mean nothing, man.

All right, a special guest in the studio
from the Sisters From Hell,

appearing at Earl Nash's all this week.
We'll have some tickets for you.


Strafe the town and kill the people

That's the only thing to do

Set your sights on residential

- Come on.
- Body count is up to you

Drop your...
Drop your napalm in the schoolyard

Watch the kiddies run and shout

You will really laugh your ass off

As they try to put it out

You ain't got any canned peaches,
have you?

You will really la...

You will really laugh your ass off

As they try...

... to put it out

Hey, amigo.

Hey, amigo.

Fun, huh?



You got any canned peaches?

I'm leaving.


- I'll go with you.
- No.

I'm leaving for good.

I can't stay here.


I gotta go too.

You understand?

Fuck it, man!

I feel like I'm dying here.


Me too.

- I'll see you around, Harv.
- You'll be back.

Stay down there, and you'll just
end up kissing the train too.

- Hi, Jack.
- Hey, coach.

Thought you guys were
supposed to be at a fitting.

I've already been down.

I guess we know
who this belongs to.

I just might miss this place.

Well, it's gonna miss you.
You did a heck of a job.

First in your class. Congratulations.

Ah, it's no big deal.

It's not like being
starting quarterback

on an undefeated team, right?

Jack, I've coached here since '59.

And I taught history all that time.

And I'll tell you this:

I'll take a kid who cracks a book
over one who can pass a pigskin

any day of the week.

You know, I was just thinking.

My dad graduated from here
23 years ago almost right to this day.

Don't remind me.

I know what's on your mind.

A lot of fathers are gonna be
at graduation.

If things had worked out differently,
yours would be there too.

The war's over, coach.
It's been over a long time.

For us, yeah.

But for the guys
who went over there...

So you're telling me things'll
never get back to normal.

Normal? What's normal?

For the kids whose dads
are gonna be at graduation,

maybe for them things are normal.

But they're not top of the class.

They're not valedictorian.
You did that all on your own.

One hundred percent.

And nobody can
take it away from you.


Thanks for the pep talk.

Force of habit.

Listen up. Come on around here,
listen up.

I've got some good news
and some bad news.

The good news is...

...next week we're gonna have
some openings.

We're gonna have some openings
for taggers, freighters, loaders.

A couple loaders, at least.
Leave your name on the clipboard.

If you've worked here before

if you've had experience
with heavy equipment,

make sure we know that.
Make sure you put that down.


Oh, sorry. I didn't mean
to surprise you.

Just a little jumpy, that's all.

I saw you through the window.

- You looking for work?
- No.


I don't know. I guess I am.

Well, the foreman's not here today,
but... Well, wait a minute.

I know a guy who can help.

I don't wanna be any trouble.

It's okay.

Come on.

Come on, Andy. What do you say?

There's not a heck of a lot of work
right now, Char.

I'll cook you dinner.

- Not like the last time.
- Oh, I promise.

Okay. Deal.

Hop on board.

That was easy.

Thanks, I appreciate it.

Check back with you later.

See how you're doing.

So how did it go today?

Real good.

- Hi, fellas.
- Andy was in Nam.

I know.

- He's a good guy, huh?
- Yep.

You think I'm being forward.

No. I wouldn't think that.

I lost a good friend in Vietnam.

So guys who were over there
are a little special to me.

Hey, let me get this.

There you go.

- You can just pay at the cashier.
- Oh. Right.

He's a cute kid. Yours?

How old is he?

He'll be 18 this month.

When was the last time
you saw him?

About the time that was taken.

You haven't had any contact
with him since?


I'm sorry.
I didn't mean to be critical...

I called him once.

A few years ago. On his birthday.

What did you say?

When I heard his voice...

...I couldn't say anything. I hung up.

Have you ever thought about
trying again?

Oh, sure. All the time.

Why don't you?

No, I'm no father. I never have been.

I bet a day doesn't go by that he
doesn't think of you as his father.

What makes you so sure?

I lost my dad in Vietnam.

I'm sorry.

At this time, I'd like to introduce you
to your class valedictorian.

I'm sure you all know him.

He has the highest GPA
in recent history. A perfect 4.0.

May I introduce the Presidential
Scholar from the state of Illinois,

Mr. Jack Lambert.

All right, Jack!

Thank you for the honor.

I'm not going to take
much of your time up here.

Like you, I'm more interested
in going on with our lives

than listening to another speech.

But there is one thing I feel
strongly about and would like to say.

Contrary to a lot of popular beliefs,
you and I are a generation

who truly cares.

I don't know any of us,
when given the opportunity,

and knowing that opportunity
really counts,

wouldn't give freely of ourselves for
the support of another human being.

And I feel all of us know,
to have true satisfaction in life

won't be in what colleges we go to
or what jobs we end up with

or even how much money we make,
but more in our ability to nurture

and sustain genuine relationships.

It is life's greatest challenge.

And I know all of us
will be up to meeting it.

Thank you.

So when exactly
are you leaving, coach?

I'll drive to Chicago tonight,
get the 7:30 flight out in the morning.

- Next stop, Paris.
- Well, that's great.

- Good speech, Jack.
- Thanks.

I'm proud of you.

- I'll see you.
- Okay.

- Have a good time.
- Thank you.


You were wonderful.

Oh, you were
pretty wonderful yourself.

- Thanks.
- Hey, Holly, come on.

Are... Are you going to go to Joey's?

I don't know. I'm going out with Gary
and Teddy, but maybe I'll stop by later.

- Okay. I hope so. Bye.
- Bye.

- Hey, Jack, nice going.
- Thanks.

Hey, Holly, get a picture of Jack.

- So there you are.
- Hey.

Oh, you were wonderful.

Oh, a little nervous, but you know.

- Oh, I'm so proud of you.
- Jack, smile.

- How's it going in there?
- Not so good.

What's the problem?

This isn't easy.

How far have you gotten?

"Dear Jack."

- That's it?
- I don't even know

whether to use "dear."
Maybe just "Jack."

I think "dear" is nice.

- It has a closeness to it.
- I don't know.

Sounds kind of funny saying "dear"
to an 18-year-old kid.

Well, what about
when you were 18?

What did your dad call you?

- "Numb-nuts."
- Come on.

"Shit for brains."
He used to use that a few times.

Use "dear."

I'll just say "Jack."

What do you wanna say?


...that I wanna see him.

- Then tell him that.
- No.

He's gonna come after me
with both barrels.

Maybe he's beyond that.


I was gonna pick you up, but Jeanette
said you were already gone.

Yeah, I'm sorry.

Moss, this is a friend of mine,
Mark Lambert.

This is Moss.

Mark was just writing a letter
to his son.

Is that right?

Yeah, he hasn't seen him
for a while.

Yeah? Why's that?

Just haven't had a lot to say, I guess.

Yeah, well...

I've always got a few things to say.

Like now.

Can I talk to you for a second?

I'll be right back.

- What's going on here?
- Nothing. Nothing's going on here.

What do you mean, nothing?

Come to pick you up...

Jeanette has to tell me
you had coffee with some guy.

I can't find you. Now you got him
sitting in there writing letters?

- Keep your voice down.
- It is down!

Be quiet.

He's a bush vet.

He's been living up in the hills.

Jesus H Christ, a fucking weirdo.

He's not a fucking weirdo.

- What are you doing with him?
- Nothing.


Not what you're thinking, anyway.

He just needs some help.

What kind of help?

He needs a friend.

Want an apple?

Did you ever finish that letter?

- I used your address, if that's all right.
- That's fine.

I haven't got any stamps though.

I got a stamp.

- I can mail it in the office for you.
- Oh, no, I'll do it.

Come on. I'll walk you to the mailbox.

You know, I don't know
if this will get to him.

They might have moved.

Mail gets forwarded.


Mom, what are you doing up?

It's your birthday.

Mom, you shouldn't have stayed up.

Anyone working as hard as you
deserves special treatment.

This is great.

Thanks, Mom.

So how's the car running?
Did you fix it?

Yeah, it's running better.


Happy birthday, Jack.

Don't forget to make a wish.

- Good?
- You bet.

You know, you can never predict
the future.

You can never predict the way
your life is gonna go.

And sometimes things happen,
the right things.

But at the wrong time.

- Or too late. Or...
- Mom.

What are you trying to tell me?

This came for you today.

Who's it from?

Your father.

Open it.


He wants to wish me
a happy birthday.

- He remembered that.
- That's it?

He wants to see me.

He sure took his sweet-ass time
about it.


I got it this morning.

He's coming.

He uses a lot of fancy words.

Must be kind of smart.

Turn this way, okay?

So, what else did he say?

Just that he was gonna drive out.

Hey, I've been trying to find you.

Hear you got a new place to live.

Listen, let me buy you a drink.

What's the problem?

I just don't like being grabbed,
that's all.

That an old war thing?

I just don't like being grabbed,
that's all.

Sure. Look, let me buy
you a drink, huh?

I don't drink.

How about some coffee then?

Let me buy you a cup of coffee.

All right.

So how's it feel having a job?

Being back in civilization?

It's okay.

Yeah, well, if you ask me,

I think you guys really got
the shitty end of the stick.

Far as I'm concerned,
you got a right to be nuts.

Thank you.

I mean it.

How long you been up in those hills?

Char was telling me that there's
some other guys up there with you.

Look, I'm not up there anymore,
all right?

Yeah, but when you're up there...

...there are some other guys?
Guys you did combat with?

We were over there at the same time.

One of them a big guy?

Spooky-looking guy?

Yeah. Nitz.

Yeah, that's the guy.

- Man, he ought to be locked up.
- Is that right?


Let me tell you something
about Nitz.

He once had a real bad day
in the Nam.

Wasted over a hundred gooks,
all in one afternoon.

He saw a purple light
coming from his head ever since.

You know...

...it's hard to be normal with a purple
light coming from your head.

Don't you think?

Man, that's sick.

You got any problems like that?


Char was saying
your kid's coming out.

You sure you can
handle all that okay?


I been dating Char for about
a year now. I wanna marry her.

Hey, you don't have to ask
my permission.


I'll make it real simple for you, man.

You stay the fuck away from her.

I ain't afraid of you.
To me, you're just loony-tunes.

Any guy can't even talk
to his own son on a telephone

ain't playing with a full deck.

I just feel sorry for your kid.



How you doing, Teddy?
Can we get four drafts up?

Whoa, Mark, slow down.

Shit, Andy, we gotta catch up.

Teddy, another shooter.

Thought you didn't drink.

I don't.

Look, things are getting
out of hand here.

I don't know what's going on
between you and Char...

...but why don't you just sneak back
in the woods where you came from.

Why don't you take a flying fuck.

Why don't you guys lighten up.

Come on, loony-tunes.
Let's see what you got.

Hey, hey, hey, fellas.

How's that?

Forget it. I don't have a knife.

Use this one. I don't need it.

He's got a knife!

I don't need it either.

Hey, come on, man.

- Come on.
- Come on, Moss.

Son of a bitch!

There it is. There it is.

Come on, Moss!



Hi, I'm Jack Lambert.
I'm looking for my father.

Mark Lambert. I had this address.


He's... He's pretty big, huh?

So how well do you know him?

Pretty well.

Well, how well is that?

Well, we've never been intimate,
if that's what you mean.

No, no. l...
That's not what I meant. I...

I mean, like, how long
have you known him?

Just a short while.

Is he a good guy?


He's a good guy.

So should I just wait here or what?
What should I do?

Jack, he's not here.

He went back into the woods.

When is he coming back?

I don't know.

What is he doing there?
Didn't he get my letter?

Didn't he know I was coming?


I see.


It has nothing to do with you.

If you only knew how important
you are to him.

Yeah, that seems pretty obvious,
doesn't it?

He got in this fight.

It's rotten timing, I know. But...

...sometimes things just...

...kind of well up in him, and...

Is this what they do?

Kill themselves by walking into trains?

I think your father knew him.

I'm not going home.

He's going to see me
whether he wants to or not.

Andy says it's up over the falls.


What do you wanna do?

You wanna go back down?

No. Let's keep going.

- Damn it!
- Didi mau.

No trespassing.

What you got there, Harv?

What's it look like?

I know they're people, Harv.

Why did you bring them here?

- We're looking for Mark Lambert.
- Shut up!

You better let me handle things, Harv.

Why should I?

Because, Harv...

...today just might be the day
I decide to blow your dick off.

Take good care of them.

Hey, amigo!

Hey, amigo.

You know what?

- You got company.
- What company?

A woman and a kid.

Nice-looking kid.

Said you were his father.

I didn't get his name, though.

- Don't fuck with me.
- Fuck you.

I'm not fucking with you.

They're here, all right.

Hey, amigo.

I'd say you've been busted.

I suppose you want chow.

Is this all you eat?

I got gummy bears.
You want gummy bears?

No, thanks.

Did you see him?

He's out there.

Why didn't he come?

Business appointment.

Did you tell him I was here?

Red Hots. I got Red Hots.
You want some Red Hots?

What kind of shape is my father in?

Hey, why all the barbwire?

We got it from the VA.
The world is a dangerous place.

You like to shoot?


- I mean, I don't know how.
- Great.

I'll show you.

Come on.

Come on.

You stay here.

I hit it.

So, what'd you do in Vietnam?


Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol.

Last time I ever dinked anyone?

It was a Sunday morning.

I was with this FNG.

Fucking New Guy.

Nice kid.

Can't remember his name.

Had a funny smile
like a Halloween pumpkin.

Crazy fucker.

We were talking about something,
all of a sudden

his whole fucking chest
just blew out. Bam!


Jesus Christ.

We need water.


I always kept a picture of you.

From Vietnam.


I had a picture of you too.

You did?

I looked at it so many times,
it about got worn out.

I kept your car running.

The GTO?

- Yeah.
- Oh, that's great.

Mom always spoke real well of you.

Are you okay?



Moss, what do you want us to do?

- She could be in some kind of trouble.
- You're not even sure where she is.

I'm telling you, she went up there
with the guy's kid.

- So?
- Those guys up there are freaks, man.

Hey, I know about your fight, Moss.
And I'll tell you one thing right now:

The sheriff's department
is not gonna get mixed up

in some personal situation.

Well, great.

That's just great.

All right, I'll take care of it myself.

This was my home
for over two years.

Right back here.

I used to cut ferns for money.
For flower shops, you know.

I'd cut them, stack them...

...tie them on my back...

...carry them on down to a friend
of mine who had a trailer.

The very next day, they'd be on a boat
out of Seattle

being shipped to all over the world,
like Japan, West Germany.

Got so's it only took me three,
four hours to make 50 bucks.

You wanna try?

Put this on here.

Reach down, you grab it
with these two fingers...

...loop the hook around
and then pull it off.

Just like that, see.

Last time I held this,
it was about the size of a pea.

Why weren't you in town
when I got there?

I just couldn't handle things.

Why, was it because I was coming?

Partly, I guess.



...I know I got a lot
of explaining to do.

Well, I'm listening.

When I got back...

I couldn't...

It wasn't...

Goddamn, it's so hard
to explain what I...

What all of us went through.

What about what I went through?

I never heard a word from you.


You just split.
You might as well have been dead.

- I know. I just...
- So I'm not gonna feel sorry for you,

- if that's what you want.
- It isn't.

Well, then what, then?

I wanna be your father again.

I'm 18 years old. What kind of father
can you be to me now?

You think just because you're 18,
you don't need a father?

I need one I can trust.

Not one who's gonna go off
and disappear on me again.

You know, your whole life
has been about disappearing.

- Hey, come on, give me a chance.
- My father?

You wanna be my father?

Goddamn it, look at you.

Man, I don't know.

I don't know. Coming here has
probably been a big mistake.

Maybe Mom was right.
I should have just let it be.

- But I wanted to see you so bad.
- Then it wasn't a mistake.

Well, look at this place!

You've never really gotten out
of Vietnam. Only, now you're trying

- to drag me into it, right?
- No!

I'm trying to get out!
I told you, I wanna get out!

- You're not seeing it!
- Well, I am! I see it clearly!

I wrote you a letter, didn't I?
I sent it, didn't I?

- What do you think that took?
- Big deal.

Fifteen years, one goddamn letter?
Fuck you.

They should have come down
by now.

I never could
keep these things clean.

Mark's my buddy.

My amigo.

I don't want him...

...screwed around with.

I don't think that's what I'm doing.

Come on. Let's go, we're leaving.

Couldn't find any berries, huh?

- You...
- Hey!

You stay here.

- What?
- We should have never come here.

Jack, please.

I think he just needs
a little more time.

Let's just wait until morning.

- Hey, amigo.
- Hey, amigo.

Walk with me.

I blew it, amigo.

You blew nothing.

Weenie roast!

Weenie roast!

Come on, man.

Weenie roast.

Weenie roast!

Come on, Jack.

I'm gonna roast
my marshmallows too.

Well, fuck it, man.

Holy shit.

I'm still smoking.

Hey, amigo.

Why don't you tell Jack here
your Billy Watson story.

- No.
- Come on.

Kid ought to hear
at least one war story.

- I said, no.
- Oh, fuck it, man!

Don't you think it's important?

Get a sense of who
his old man really is?


...Billy was this surfer guy.

He was this young hot-shit SEAL.

Just like your old man.

Shut up, amigo.


Your kid is probably wondering
what war was like.

Don't you think he has a right
to know?

Don't do this, Larry.

See, he and Billy were doing a little
mumbo jumbo up north.

You get it, Jack?

Your old man didn't do much fighting
in South Vietnam.

Mostly, he operated north
of the DMZ.

What do I have to do to shut you up?

Maybe the same fucking thing
you did to old Billy.

Yeah. Yeah, there it is.

It was all pretty easy.

Pretty straightforward.

Simple mission to take out
an NVA colonel.

Fucking gook had been working
for the CIA,

but he doubled back on us.
Started feeding us bad intelligence.

So... He had to be taken out.

Shut the fuck up, amigo.

Your old man took a team up there
to do the job,

and Billy was the shooter.

Except, weird thing,
the whole operation was a setup.

This colonel had the whole lousy North
Vietnamese army waiting for them.

The team got hit, fucking smoked,
man. Wasted.

Except for your old man and Billy.
They made for the bush.

Yeah, your old man told me Billy
was the best shot he'd ever seen.

Could dink a guy
from over half a mile away.

The fucking gook colonel
would never even know what hit him.

Poor Billy.

He never got his chance.

He took a round in the gut,
started making a lot of noise,

- crying and carrying on.
- Shut up! Shut up!

The fucking gooks
were all around you, man.

They were shooting
anything that moved.

- Shut up, goddamn it!
- Your old man knew

he was gonna die.

Shut up! Stop it, goddamn it!
Shut up! Shut up!

Billy. Billy. Billy, please shut up.
We're gonna get out of here, Billy.

Please, they'll hear us. They'll kill us.
Billy, be quiet. Billy.


Don't, don't!


I could hear our guys getting wasted.

Screaming and...

...dying all around us.

I wanted to disappear so bad.

But all we could do
was stay real quiet.

We were in water up to our necks.

Leeches and snakes.

And Billy crying and whimpering.
I kept trying to keep him quiet.

I had my hand over his mouth.
I had to keep him quiet.

But I killed him.

Maybe I could have got him
out of there.

Maybe I could have saved him.

But I killed him.

He had a family too.

A kid.

A baby, wife, everything.

And I killed him.


He wants to go down.

Thanks for trying.

I'm sorry.

What about you?

This is where I belong.

Say hi to your mom.

I will.

We... We could write.

You better get going.


I'm sorry I wasn't what you wanted.

I didn't do so hot either.

It said, "No trespassing."

Fuck, man. Fuck!

Goddamn Nitz.

You're gonna be okay.

- Oh, my God.
- We gotta get him down. Hold this.


Come on.

Get one of the sleeping bags
out of there.


You killed that guy.

Fuck you.

Stay here.

- Fuck, man.
- What is it?

Nitz, man.

- He's gone south for the winter.
- We gotta get down the mountain.

- We gotta what?
- He's still alive.

Oh, shit.

- I've been here before, amigo.
- I know.

But nobody's gonna die this time.
Come on, I need your help.

Come on.

Oh, shit.

You know what?

You are a real...


Get down!

Oh, God!


- Dad! Dad!
- Get him down.

- Oh, God.
- We gotta get him out.


You're gonna be okay.
Get over there with Char.

- Stay down.
- Stay down, stay down.

Stay there. Don't move,
no matter what.

Do you know how to use that?
Jack? Do you?

No trespassing.

Get out of here.
Get out of here now!

Go on. Get out of here!

Jack, help.

Help me.




Dr. G|illian, report to Radiology.
Dr. G|illian, report to Radiology.

Dr. Sarsten, report to Emergency.
Dr. Sarsten, report to Emergency.

Dr. G|illian, report to Pediatrics.
Dr. G|illian, report to Pediatrics.

No, no.

Goddamn it, no!

- Is this what it all comes down to?
- Get out of here. Please.

Is this what you're going to do?
The ultimate disappearing act?

It was my fault Larry died.
I should have been watching.

- No, it wasn't your fault.
- Everyone around me dies.

Well, Moss didn't die. Char didn't die.
I didn't die.

You... You couldn't even look at me.

I was scared. What did you expect?
I never saw anyone shot before.

I never wanted you to see that.
Not ever.

So now you want me
to see you kill yourself?

You're my father.
How could you care so little?

There it is.

- Fuck "there it is."
- What are you doing?

- Get off.
- No, you get off.

You wanna go so badly?
Fine, you can take me with you.

- Get off!
- Maybe you were right!

Maybe everyone around you
does die.