Jake Preston is the greatest! Helicopter pilot, that is. After his friend is killed by a South American cartel’s helicopter ace, Jake is recruited to train with Brad Little on the new Apache attack helicopter. Can he get through the training and take down the cartel (and perhaps get the girl?) before it’s too late? Find out in… Fire Birds.
How?! Jake Preston wants only two things in life: to fly helicopters like a mofo and to win the War on Drugs. When his friend dies at the hands of a cartel’s hitman/attack helicopter pilot extraordinaire he jumps at the opportunity to be part of the group trained on the new Apache helicopter to go after him. The teacher is Brad Little. He’s long in the tooth but still the best helicopter pilot the army has ever seen. But he sees something in Jake. Something he never thought possible: a pilot even better than he is. That’s cause Jake Preston is the greatest! He breezes through most of the training and even crushes Little in boxing to boot. He even finds time for a little on-base romance with his former flame Billie who he still has the hots for (and you better believe she still has the hots for him). Things are going swimmingly until the hardest test in the program: a simulation of a night mission. Turns out Jake has a dominant eye problem and only one other pilot ever was able to get over the issue. That pilot? A man by the name of Brad Little. Boom. Little helps Jake get over his problem and soon they are both off to South America to take on the cartel. When they get there they are surprise attacked by the cartel who not only have a helicopter but a couple of fighter jets too. The Apaches take off and go head to head with the cartel’s air force taking them down one-by-one. Little is injured, but remember, Jake is the greatest and so even alone he is able to trick the cartel hitman and take him out. Hooray. With that the War on Drugs is won and everyone high fives. THE END.
Why?! Did you not notice the mention of the War on Drugs? The funniest aspect of all this is the entirely unironic framing of the War on Drugs as an actual war… like… as if direct military intervention in Central and South American countries was a clear and obvious strategy that would be employed across the globe.
Who?! I have to dive deep on the fact that Dale Dye has a story credit on this film. I know Dale Dye as Captain Lang in Operation Delta Force 2: Mayday. ODF was a series of straight-to-video military action films that started with a Jeff Fahey vehicle set on train and then managed to move into two separate sequels involving submarine hijackings. The one that Dale Dye is in features one of the best (read: insane) characters ever put to film: Flint Lukash. This is all to say that Dale Dye… well… let’s say the man works. And yet this is the only film he ever got a writing credit on. Blows my mind.
What?! While it is obvious to say that this is one long advertisement for the US Army (true), it’s also important to note on occasion that Patrick and I are crazy people. So when I saw Nic Cage guzzling the same black and gold labelled beer throughout the film I know I would have to mention it here. Turns out that they can’t get enough Miller Genuine Draft in Fire Bird. Probably what made Nic Cage the greatest.
Where?! They tell you a little about where the final battle is through an intertitle pointing to the Catamarca Desert. When I watched I was pretty sure that meant Chile, but apparently I was confusing that with the Atacama Desert. Catamarca is in Argentina, but is the name of a province, not a desert as far as I can tell. Where they train is less clear. It seems like Arizona, and Patrick told me he found some evidence for that, so I’m gonna go ahead and given this a C+
When?! Too much of this is made up to really be convinced of any specific time. They do open with a quote from President George H.W. Bush from September 5th 1989 about the War on Drugs, so you can imagine it’s around then, but not much better. Feel like we’ve been on a cold streak in this category. D-.
Great movie to put on at your next Cage-a-thon. Not only will no one have seen it, but it’ll really put into perspective for those that only know late stage Cage that Nic Cage has never really changed. He’s always been late stage Cage. It’s also fun and funny to varying degrees throughout the film. One the one hand you have the ludicrous War on Drugs setting and Nic Cage screaming “I am the greatest!” over and over in your face. On the other you have Tommy Lee Jones doing a pretty solid and even keel performance, which kind of anchors the film a bit. And this was in Under Siege/Blown Away era TLJ, so he really was a wild card. But he channeled his The Fugitive performance here. Anyway, the film was actually not all that bad. The only aspect I thought was just blah was unfortunately Sean Young, who was given a pretty good female character to play and seemed disinterested in it. Weirdly, I almost wish I could see this film with Demi Moore in that role. As for Airborne, we tried something new in how we choose the Friends this year and boy has it paid off so far with Airborne. I really enjoyed it. It’s pretty ludicrous and, while perhaps a little confusing for those that aren’t giant Gutes-heads like Patrick and I, I think most people who are at least somewhat familiar with his work would find the whole concept hilarious. Oh and if there’s one thing I’m a sucker for it’s a film where someone has a lucky coin and Gutes got on. Patrick?
‘Ello everyone! We got Nic Cage. We got Tommy Lee Jones. We got Top Gun with Helicopters. We got Fire Birds! Let’s go!
P’s View on the Preview – Uh, Top Gun with Helicopters, nuff said, right? Wrong, the cast is also spectacular. So what could have gone wrong? From the reviews it appears it was too gung-ho America for even the most patriotic of critics. And that’s saying something considering critics liked Top Gun. What were my expectations? I think I’ll easily be able to divide my brain into the “well, this celebration of the War on Drugs seems a bit unsavory” side and the “wooooooo mf-ing helicopters! Bro, like … helicopters!!” side. And that means I might just have fun with this.
The Good – It is, indeed, Top Gun with helicopters. And if that is what you are looking for I have no idea why you would go away dissatisfied with this film. It gives you what you want, which is Nic Cage screaming in your face while helicopters do loop-de-loops and shoot things. Tommy Lee Jones is great and plays the veteran who doesn’t want to call it quits perfectly. The Arizona setting is beautiful, and the soundtrack is bumping. I think there is a lot to love here. Best Bit: It’s between Tommy Lee Jones and the sweet red convertible Nic Cage drives around.
The Bad – Now, if you were looking for actual Top Gun level filmmaking then that’s where we go a bit wrong. Mainly, it has to be Nic Cage’s fault in the end. It feels like Tom Cruise manages to ground what is otherwise an absurd jingoistic and homoerotic film into a blockbuster. Nic Cage manages to Nic Cage it up. Which is all well and good now, but then? I think people balked at it. Otherwise the only real complaint was that I knew they didn’t have the guts to kill off one of the main three characters. While this pleased me, you didn’t get the emotional gut check of Goose dying to tell you that you were, in fact, watching a real movie. Instead you are left thinking you watched a feel good family action film. Which isn’t the same. Fatal Flaw: As much as it wants to be, it isn’t Top Gun, not even close.
The BMT – I kind of liked this film and I think there is something to be said about the absurdity of the various forms both Nic Cage and Tommy Lee Jones take within their BMT repertoires. I can respect that. And as an almost-forgotten part of both of their filmographies it is better than it had any right to be, and also was ludicrous. I think there is a ton of room to watch military films from the 80s and 90s like this in the future, I think we’ve left a ton of those on the table over the years. Did it meet my expectations? Yup, I successfully partitioned by brain into two halves and managed to like this film quite a bit.
Roast-radamus – Two solid Product Placement (What?) for Miller (which Nic Cage guzzles throughout) and Tide (in the pivotal laundry room scene). Solid Setting as a Character (Where?) for Arizona which, shockingly, is not mentioned anywhere on IMDb or Wikipedia as the location of this film (but it is definitely set there, you can see it on a map). I think that is it amazingly, no MacGuffins or Twists this week. Closest to BMT I think, although it is getting close to Good as well, I did genuinely like this film a lot.
Sequel, Prequel, Remake – I mean, we definitely need a Sequel. This time it is Nic Cage’s turn to be the grizzled veteran. And who’s a nice young star around 25-30 years old to be the hot shot? Maybe someone like Joe Keery from Stranger Things could work, he has that irreverent charm, but also comes across as too cool for school most of the time. And what better way to kick this film into the 21st century than to make Joe Kerry an ex-professional video game player who, after his father died, decided to follow him into the military to become the pilot he could never be. Operating drones, the new frontier on the war on terror is drone-to-drone warfare, and my god, Joe if the mf-ing best! He shoots everything down left and right, but alas, he never did tell them why he actually quit video games. He sustained nerve damage in his video gaming hand after a drug fueled night on the town and car crash. Well, Nic Cage can help with that. With a little bit of practice on the road, he helps Joe switch his dominant hand from the right to left. And in the end Joe gets the girl, destroys the drones, foils a terrorist plot, and high fives with everyone! Fire Birds 2: Drone Warfare. Sounds terrible, but also like something I would see on Netflix next to The Ice Road starring Liam Neeson.
Bring a Friend Analysis – This week we watched the Steve Guttenberg classic Airborne (nope, not the one with Seth Green, the one from 1998). Why? Well, obviously this is also a movie about flying and aircraft, right? … Right? WRONG! In an amazing twist of fate there is an airplane for approximately 5 minutes total of the film near the beginning and right at the end, the rest definitely has its feet planted firmly on land. The tagline is even “Pray it doesn’t land”!!! How does that happen? Is it just a trick to try and pull in that sweet sweet Turbulence money? The movie is pretty run of the mill, a standard Steel Sharks affair (complete with lucky coin), and is almost exclusively notable for Guttenberg playing a hardcore special ops soldier. Sean Bean being in it (for maaaaaaaaaybe 5 minutes of total screen time?) is truly bizarre as well. It is one of those films where there are seven weird things just floating around in a mostly boring story. Reminds me of a Dudikoff film. If not for it being called Airborne with barely a plane in sight it would be a C, but with that I’ll promote it to a B. Goes along at a good clip with a weird hook to legitimize watching it, plus the twist at the end is hilarious.