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William Devane plays a rare sympathetic role in Rolling Thunder, though his behavior is just as cold-blooded and sharkish as in any of his villainous assignments. Devane is cast as Maj. Charles Rane, a recently released Vietnam POW who is given a hero's welcome in his Texas hometown.
Things sour pretty quickly, however: Rane's wife has lost all love for him, his son doesn't recognize him, and there are those in town who consider him a loser or baby-killer. All he really has to show for his ordeal in Nam is a cache of silver coins bestowed on him by the more sympathetic townsfolk. A scumbag gang of thieves decides to relieve Rane of his money; they kill his family, then torture and disfigure Rane to ascertain the whereabouts of the coins.
Now living only for vengeance, the taciturn Rane heads to Mexico to exact his own brand of justice on the fleeing crooks. Tommy Lee Jones co-stars as Rane's best friend, Johnny Vohden, who unquestioningly agrees to help Rane in his mission of revenge.