This movie is based on Robert Stone's National Book Award-winning novel Dog Soldiers. John Converse (Michael Moriarty), numbed by his experiences as a journalist in Vietnam, caves in to cynicism and despair. Concluding that everyone deserves an escape from the void, he purchases three kilos of heroin and enlists Ray Hicks (Nick Nolte), a former Marine buddy, to deliver the smack to California and his wife Marge (Tuesday Weld). Once he makes contact with her, they are surprised by a renegade narcotics agent (Anthony Zerbe) and his two goons (Richard Masur and Ray Sharkey) who want to rip off the heroin. With Converse as their prisoner, they finally corner Hicks and Marge at a mountaintop retreat in the Southwest. A shootout ensues. Vietnam's violence and void are brought home.
Karel Reisz (Isadora, Morgan, The Gambler) directs Who'll Stop the Rain with a firm hand. He successfully translates the book's message: the perverse futility of trying to escape from the messes and miseries of this less than perfect world. Moriarty is good as a burn-out case and Tuesday Weld is convincing as his drug addicted wife. However, Nick Nolte gives the best performance as a two-bit loser who uses the adventure in a last ditch attempt to strike back at all the bums who have treated him like dirt. And ironically, his caring relationship with the pill-popping Marge draws out the best in him.
Who'll Stop the Rain is a complicated morality play that may be too grim for some viewers. But for those who stick with the story and its undulating moods, it offers a microcosmic picture of what went wrong with many of us during and after the Vietnam war.