A strong director himself, Clint Eastwood for years was known for giving a boost to young filmmakers by letting them direct him (a more-or-less guaranteed box-office draw) and starting their careers with a bang.That's what was supposed to happen with Michael Cimino, who'd worked on the script for Magnum Force and made his directorial debut here, but the movie was only a modest success. It's a meandering, mildly entertaining Eastwood vehicle, with Clint as a thief and Jeff Bridges as a happy-go-lucky drifter he picks up.
Thunderbolt and Lightfoot is good in spots, especially when Bridges is around, but Cimino seems to be preparing for The Deer Hunter. There are luxurious long takes in scenes that don't call for them; the movie could easily be half an hour shorter. Cimino is so into making his images glow that he forgets to make the film move.
Fortunately, Geoffrey Lewis and George Kennedy (who has a nice running gag about his asthma and hay fever) show up as Clint's ex-partners and turn in great little performances. Eastwood is his usual impassive self; the actors around him just about wipe him off the screen. Clint's less emotional performances never work unless the roles are archetypal.Bridges and Lewis were later seen somewhere in the margins of Cimino's 'Heaven's Gate.'