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  Fire Birds Look At The Size of That Chopper
Year: 1990
Director: David Green
Stars: Nicolas Cage, Tommy Lee Jones, Sean Young, Bryan Kestner, Illana Diamant, Dale Dye, Mary Ellen Trainor, J.A. Preston, Peter Onorati, Charles Lanyer, Marshall R. Teague, Cylk Cozart, Charles Kahlenberg, Gregory Vahanian, Bob Lujan
Genre: Action, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Jake Preston (Nicolas Cage) is a helicopter pilot with the U.S Army, flying missions into South America to combat the drugs cartels there, but as he gives his briefing to his superior officers he has some bad news to impart as their last excursion there resulted in every pilot dead and every aircraft destroyed except him and his. The reason for this is that the drugs barons have a superb pilot at their disposal, and he has been running rings around the Americans in his Scorpion chopper, so Jake knows they will have to bring in the heavy duty Apaches now - and he means to fly one.

Like Top Gun but thought it was a bit too wishy-washy in the flagwaving department? Then can I recommend Fire Birds, also known as Wings of the Apache in some territories, an aerial drama very much in that vein and if such a thing were possible, even more stupid? This time the baddies were not the Soviets, thanks to Glasnost meaning the U.S.A. were supposed to be more friendly towards them now (and vice versa, not that it stopped them continuing to spy on one another), so step forward the evildoers of eighties action movies when the Russkies couldn't make it: that's right, the Central and South Americans making billions out of United States' drug addiction.

Never mind that the C.I.A. were proven to be making a hefty amount of money out of that as well, rendering the patriotic opening quote from ex-chief of that venerated organisation and President at the time George Bush all the more ironic, but what's an action flick supposed to do when the Russians won't play ball any longer? Anyway, the main reason anybody would track this down in the future was that it was an early indication that star Cage was more than happy to appear in films which, shall we say, failed to stretch his talents as long as he could receive a healthy fee, and if he acted a tad crazy in his performance, then all the better for his fans. Suffice to say Cage was as manic as they would have wanted him to be here.

Not consistently, but enough to make his character's insistence on having his piloting skills accompanied by innuendo-laden commentary courtesy of his own good self move him all the closer to a sort of helicopter-flying, missile-launching Sid James. His main squeeze here was an alarmingly thin Sean Young as fellow pilot and octogenarian blues singer Billie Lee Guthrie (well, maybe not the second part, but with a name like that...) who Jake used to go out with but they argued too much so she broke off the relationship. Now to demonstrate his capability in the sky he has to do the same between the sheets, so you can imagine how Billie re-succumbs to his dubious charms eventually.

Though actually at various points Jake looked to be cultivating a similarly amorous bond with his mentor Brad Little, played by Tommy Lee Jones, another actor who had shown himself to be somewhat above such simpleminded gung ho business but evidently they must have offered him too much money to turn down what was in effect a recruitment film even actual military minds would have criticised as simplistic. For a long hour Jake trains and trains, overcoming such terrible afflictions as a dominant left eye (or was it a dominant right eye? Whatever, it affects his targeting ability) but still finding space to yell and whoop and generally present himself as the greatest thing since sliced bread because... well, there doesn't seem to be much reason beyond his piloting powers, which in a movie like this is more than enough. When you look at selected patriotic movies made in the decades before this, you could see how to do it right, but Fire Birds turned this to unthinking jingoism, and that wasn't helpful. Music by David Newman.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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