[Thunder Road] plays out as a series of snapshots from Jim’s life, exploring his experience on the police
force — he’s a decorated offi cer who isn’t shy about using his gun and often seems to be starring in
some “Keystone” version of “Cops” — and also his testy encounters with his sneering estranged wife
(Jocelyn DeBoer), his distraught sister (Chelsea Edmundson), his highly supportive African-American
police partner (Nican Robinson), and his daughter’s teacher (Macon Blair), who explains to him that
Crystal is a problem child, always acting out, a warning that Jim can’t take in because it would get in the
way of his everything-is-fi ne posture.
This is one of the fi rst dramas to dig deep into America’s heartland crisis — the crush of the spirit
that has emerged from a collapsing job market and drug addiction and the underlying loss of faith. In
“Thunder Road,” Cummings creates an indelible character who is all tangled up in that disaster, but with
a stubbornness that turns into something like valor, he wriggles free of it. He saves himself by becoming
a human being. It’s a relief to stop laughing at him, only to realize that you may want to cry for him.