Thursday, April 29, 2010

"Iron Eagle" (1986)

"Iron Eagle" (1986)
Starring Louis Gossett Jr., Jason Gedrick and David Suchet
Written by Kevin Elders and Sidney J. Furie
Directed by Sidney J. Furie

Y'know, there's something about 80s movies...  A sort of vaguely undefinable sense of fantasy that doesn't really exist in any other decade, and certainly not today.  No, today we like our heroes to be flawed and our villains multi-faceted.  But in the 80s, there was not only a simplicity, but a sort of brightly colored, candy coated fantasy to the adventures on screen.  This is readily apparent in "Iron Eagle," a film with such a ludicrous premise that only the 80s could have conjured it:

Air Force Colonel Ted Masters is shot down over some fictional Middle Eastern country, his teenage son Doug (Jason Gedrick) hatches a plan to steal a pair of US military fighter planes and stage a daring rescue.  Let's just let that sink in for a moment - his teenage son hatches a plan to steal US military fighter planes and stage a daring rescue.  Can you imagine any movie getting a green light with that premise in this day?  He manages to talk his friends into stealing vital military secrets from the local air base, and a reserve colonel (Louis Gossett Jr) into flying as his wingman!

Not only is this completely unbelievable as the premise of a movie, the fact that they all manage to pull it off without spending the rest of their lives in prison or causing some kind of major international incident is even worse.  And yet... it's kind of awesome.  Sure, "Iron Eagle" comes off mostly as a teenage fantasy version of "Top Gun," and a borderline cheap one at that.  But still, there's a gung-ho quality to it that's hard to ignore.  That candy 80s fantasy is grabbing, the product of an era that's far gone to filmgoers today. 

But looking at it objectively, "Iron Eagle" isn't a particularly good film.  Aside from Gossett, not a single one of the actors in this movie is worth a damn.  The villains all talk with stilted, vaguely Russian accents, and the teenagers are all pretty lame in general.  I can't recall a single one of their names, I can really only remember the stereotypical roles they play - the nerdy one with the glasses can hack into military computers, the black kid can set off firecrackers, the smarmy one can smooth-talk his way into restricted areas, the girls can charm people, etc. 

Even Gossett doesn't escape unfazed.  The planning montage wherein he dances while going over important intelligence documents is a laughably bad attempt at making the character "quirky."  Gedrick in the lead gives a downright terrible performance.  His line readings are all off, as though he's either barely remembering the script or hell, maybe he was even reading off cue cards.  Who knows.  It still sucks.

The action sequences aren't quite as cool as "Top Gun."  A lot of shots are done with model effects, and they look little better than the UFOs dangling on strings from old black and white sci-fi B-movies.  It's the footage of real planes that looks better, here, and they should have tried to work in some more of that, perhaps, than to waste time and money on the same model shots of wobbly fighter models over and over again.

But somehow these faults just add to the charm of the movie, heightening the fantasy.  Sure, you can jab it for all the bad technical errors, too (no way an F-16 can fire a missile while on the ground) but why would you want to when the rest of the movie is so ludicrous?  This is definitely one of those movies you pop in and think, "Man, remember the 80s?"  Then you smile.