Who'll Stop the Rain (1978)
The 1970s was such an outstanding decade in American moviemaking that looks back at the era often overlook a lot of fascinating but not-quite-top-rank films. Who'll Stop the Rain is one of them. If it never achieves the poetic, gritty nihilism of its source, Robert Stone's novel The Dog Soldiers, Czech expatriate Karel Reisz's adaptation still offers plenty to enjoy as it moves along an evil axis between Vietnam and California. A worn-out war correspondent named John Converse (Michael Moriarty) convinces his merchant-seaman buddy Ray Hicks (Nick Nolte) to smuggle a large shipment of heroin from Southeast Asia to Northern California. Of course, everything goes wrong, especially after Hicks gets involved with Converse's wife, Marge (Tuesday Weld). Weld's performance is a fine mix of anomie and hysteria, but it's Nolte who really carries the pictures with his portrait of a highly intelligent working-class sociopath with a solid knowledge of weapons. There's also excellent scuzzy-villain work by Richard Masur, Ray Sharkey, and Anthony Zerbe, plus lots of Creedence Clearwater Revival on the soundtrack.