A Review by Noah Antwiler
1986 played host to not one but two major movies in the rare genre of Airplane Porn-- a bizarre yet entirely understandable sub-sect of cinema that indulges our base American need to watch our armed forces shock and awe the bejeesus out of stereotypically evil Middle Eastern / Soviet Bloc sonsabitches. And not only that, to do it against hilariously overwhelming odds because we Yanks (thanks to Elvis, Manifest Destiny, and Chuck Norris) have learned that you don't need sound military tactics when you're a lone hotshot pilot who doesn't play by the rules!!! You might label this as typical American jingoism mixed with our own absurd sense of global entitlement to our opinion and stereotypical view of all things non-Anglo and...well you'd probably be right. But with movies like this it's nothing personal, y'know? Our war with the communists peaked with Red Dawn and we had to find some different stock bad guys, because we know that nothing was ever going to top Patrick Swayze leading a guerilla insurgence against a Russian occupation of the west coast. We just want to see movies about dudes dropping absurdly large bombs on buildings to the stirring strains of "Highway to the Danger Zone" and pulverizing the fuck out of some hapless bastards who had no idea who they were messing with when they dared to piss off the U.S. of A. As long as the villains could easily be equated to Nazis and said things like "I vill have zis Yanqui pikdok's skin nailed to ze vall!" it didn't really matter that they're Russians or Libyans; we were just rocking out and enjoying the firebombing, secure in the knowledge that whoever was getting blown up, they were Bad Guys and had it coming.
Admittedly, this excuses little. I'm just trying to account for the really weird world view most Americans seem to have when it comes to bombing foreign nations and invading other people's shit. It looked really easy in Rambo III. Why is Osama so hard to find? You mean the real Navy SEALs don't operate like in that Charlie Sheen movie? Colonel Braddock pretty much singlehandedly kicked Colombia's ass in Delta Force III and we can't stop drugs entering the country? I remember our first little incursion into Iraq, Desert Storm, being some of the best television in years, because all the news channels would air was predominantly green bomb and missile camera footage blasting the crap out of vague green targets. All that was missing was CNN looping "Rock You Like a Hurricane" over the death footage and Air Force recruitment would have been through the roof. I knew dudes who spent their weekends getting off on shit like this, watching The War Show on TV with half a stock and setting up a tailgate at a NASCAR event on Sundays with a U.S. flag flying high above the trailer and twangy pseudo-country anthems like "Proud to be an American" blasting out of a tinny cassette/radio player tuned to KHIK. These are the same assholes who listen to that "we'll put a boot in yer ass" song by Toby Keith and call Iraqis "Eye-Rackies." Makes me wonder why Fox News hasn't tried to really jazz up the War on Terror. They did such a good job making Desert Storm look like a blast (pun semi-intended), and now the ultra-conservatives are pretending they're not having a good time? C'mon! Cut loose! We're the righteous ones, aren't we? Can't we enjoy this a little bit?
I have no idea where I'm going with this. I think this was a roundabout way of me lamenting that there's nothing good on TV.
You think I'm joking about these flicks being an effective recruiting tool, though? The U.S. Navy set up recruiting stands in theater lobbies to catch the outflow from screenings of Top Gun for weeks, and they did big business. If only G.L.A.D. had had the same idea, it could have enabled a lot of closet homosexuals to embrace their nature and maybe even meet someone special. You can be my wingman anytime.
And if you immediately said "Bullshit, you can be mine," I think maybe you should take a bit of a personal inventory yourself, girlfriend.
To the point at last: Iron Eagle is the lesser-known, much much worse movie. Instead of a narrative or the relatively strong acting evidenced in Top Gun, Eagle involves a lot more Airplane Porn, senseless brutality, and scenes of shit blowing up. Ironically, many would argue that's why Iron Eagle is the superior of the two: because it dispenses with all those ladies and the homo volleyball scenes and the really bad music by Berlin. Even I have to admit, that movie sends mixed signals. It makes my wiener confused.
Damn it. Why did Goose have to die? Why???
The liner notes of this DVD amuse the hell out of me. It's unashamed of its nature and even embraces praise from several movie critics that seem to be somewhat backhanded compliments, like "The picture should pease those that enjoy seeing F-16s in action, explosions, and one-man armies. (Hollywood Reporter)," and "anyone who fails to respond to Iron Eagle has no red blood at all (New York Post)."
Translation: "Dudes only."
There's also a lengthy blurb describing the original planning for the movie, which was going to be filmed in the Philippines until the Israeli Ministry of Defense offered to rent them a dozen of their own F-16s and the pilots to go with them. Shooting in the Philippines backs up my theory that the choice of Vague Middle-Easterners as the bad guys was simply as arbitrary as the filming location. Shooting in the desert? Middle-Eastern bad guys. Philippines? East Asian bad guys. But here's the funniest bit:
Holy shit!! You're telling me that Al Qaeda is one video rental away from watching Iron Eagle and using it as a blueprint to steal a military jet aircraft and re-enacting it on U.S. soil?! Way to compromise national security, Sidney!
Oh, and in case you're wondering who Sidney Furie is, he went on to direct such classics as Iron Eagle II, Iron Eagle IV, and Superman IV: The Quest For Peace. You sir, are on notice.
The Tri-Star Pictures studio logo where the white horse turns into a pegasus and flies away always makes me imagine that I must be a Replicant. You?
The opening scene is like you'd imagine: a lengthy montage of F-16s cruising above the cloudline while trusty composer Basil Poledouris (a favorite of mine for doing the music for Conan the Barbarian) does his thing. You can tell these aren't American F-16s pretty quickly because they're painted with desert camouflage and at the time we didn't commonly land our planes in desert locales where they were bound to get strafed.
One of the guys gets a radar contact and announces that there are four MiGs (it's as much fun to say as it is to type!) approaching fast. And since planes move very fast already, that's pretty damn fast. The guy in charge, who I'll just call Colonel Dad from now on, orders his wingman to "climb to 23,000 feet." Since I just saw a shot of their cockpit (that I've read doesn't look anything like the actual cockpit of an F-16) where there's a giant red LED screen that says 33207, and their altimeter's dial reads 10,750 while the arrows on the same gauge read 27,400, I'm guessing his wingman is freaking the hell out, not knowing which reading to trust. Do I pull up? Do I go down? Help me, Captain! Following a hunch, based on a lot of factors ranging fact I used to play a ton of flight simulators when I was a kid to the wild guess that this movie was just making shit up, I checked and the four airplanes approaching the F-16s are not MiG 23s, but are in fact Mirage III/5s. And yes, I did pick this out, but checking on IMDB I discovered a bunch of other errors in the same shot that I missed! For instance, the vertical speed indicator is reading a 2,500 ft/min climb and yet the altimeter stays steady as a rock. So basically, every single thing displayed in the wildly inaccurate cockpit is wildly inaccurate.
The F-16s start to climb, and immediately I notice that both airplanes are totally missing all of their missiles except two on the wingtips, where before they had much heavier loadouts. In fact, it's impossible to keep track of what the planes are carrying because their weapons change radically almost every shot. No wonder their instrumentation is screwy; they're in some weird quantum dimension where their weapons only exist in potentia and may or may not be there when you need to fire.
"Attention American invaders," says some Vague Middle-Eastern dude, "You are violating our territorial airspace."
"Gy-hyuk, what the hell're they tawkin' 'bawt?" drawls Lieutenant Hayseed.
Colonel Dad tries to explain but the "MiGs" open fire almost immediately on them. You wouldn't guess it, because Colonel Dad actually has to say "they're firing on us!" after seeing a little graphic on his radar of the pointy red things coming out of red triangles in a way that I'm pretty sure doesn't resemble what actually happens on the radar screen of an F-16 when it's targeted by missiles. If I were to hazard a guess-- and mind you, I have no military training in a fighter jet whatsoever-- but of the many things that would happen when someone fires a missile at your airplane, I would hope that the most striking thing to occur would be a fairly insistent alarm noise. Something incredibly annoying to let you know that rocket-powered explosive death is imminent and you should probably do something about it. Instead this movie would have me believe that incoming missile fire does not warrant any sound whatsoever. If Colonel Dad weren't looking at his radar screen that very instant, he would never have been aware of the missiles until they were lodged directly down his throat.
You might also think that the impending air battle we're about to witness warrants some thrilling combat music, perhaps something scored by a famous composer like Basil Poledouris. Instead, the director chooses to let this entire scene play out with no music at all. What, is Basil out having a smoke or something?
You might as well forget about the incoming missiles; they're forgotten as soon as they're mentioned. The two American pilots make no effort to dodge them, but it doesn't matter because they simply vanish. Not only are the weapons disappearing and reappearing in other shots, they're spontaneously vanishing after being fired! Colonel Dad manages to circle in behind one of the "MiGs" and fires a missile after uttering his trademark kill-phrase: "Okay, palsy!" Cut to a really quick and cheap-looking explosion effect of a model plane exploding.
Lieutenant Hayseed starts to zero-in on a bogey of his own until another one of the enemy starts tailing him. Looking at his radar, we see another red pointy thing issue forth the enemy red triangle, and suddenly Hayseed shouts "I'm hit! I'm droppin' fuel fast!" There's still no alarm to announce a missile lock or to warn the pilot that his aircraft has sustained critical damage. In fact, the missile made no sound whatsoever when it impacted the airplane. Sounds ridiculous, right? I'm serious, there was no sound effect used to accompany the fact that an air-to-air missile just damaged the airplane, and we've been looking at the pilot of that airplane the whole time! The camera doesn't even get jostled to simulate Star Trek-style that the plane was hit. The guy just looks panicked for a second and says "I'm hit!" I would have accepted a stagehand shouting "BOOM!" from off-camera, or even the pilot making his own explosion sound effect into his mask. "BCCCCHHHH! Aaagh! I'm hit!"
Colonel Dad tells Hayseed to bug out, so the Lieutenant gets out of there and for some reason, none of the enemy aircraft care to finish him off. Dad starts talking smack, and he really shouldn't, because his best material is stuff like "Check in behind you, sucker!" and "Thank you!" He gets a missile lock on another bad guy and pulls the trigger, prompting another crappy explosion that shows the toy MiG is clearly made out of wood, judging from how the model turns into a cloud of splinters.
"Four to one," Dad says, taking another look at his radar which shows four more red triangles situated perfectly in all four corners of the screen, demonstrating a shocking level of coordination that the Blue Angels would envy. "Hey guys, while that guy kills Bruce, let's all maneuver so that we're coming at him from a four-way collision course starting at exactly the same distance." Why would they bother to arrange themselves this way? Why haven't they just mobbed him and destroyed him already? Are they playing by the Chuck Norris Ninja playbook and engaging him one at a time in some weird bad guy sense of fair play? And why are there still four of them? There were four of them to begin this fight and two of them are dead. Where did the other two come from?
"These guys aren't taking any chances!" Dad continues, talking to nobody in particular. Here's a tip, pops: if you're looking for someone to chat with, why don't you try calling headquarters asking for some fucking backup? A bad guy comes up behind him and cuts loose with his Vulcan cannon. The little computer screen in Dad's cockpit says that this damage has caused a turbine failure and he should eject. Of course, now the airplane decides that it would be a good time to have an alarm noise. Great warning system: it'll let you know you're in trouble when it's way too late to help yourself.
The movie jumps to someone's bedroom while an appropriately painful Bruce Springsteeny "drivin' down the roads of my hometown" song thumps out of a boombox, which some kid who looks frighteningly like an 18-year-old Ralph Macchio thankfully turns off after only a few seconds. He tries to collect his kid brother for a trip out of the house, but encounters a surprising amount of hostility that would have had my little brother beaten senseless and put into Bret Hart's sharpshooter submission until he apologized. Then he goes downstairs and finds his mother putting the finishing touches on his much younger sister's dress. The sister fidgets, and mom tells her she only has to wear it once for her brother Doug's graduation tomorrow.
"It's a wonder he's graduating at all!" sasses the little kid. Damn, Doug gets no respect around this place. I've only been in his house for about thirty seconds and already I would have thrown two punkasses some serious beatings. Doug hurries out the door before he gets dissed by any more small children, claiming he's going to be late. He flops into his red convertible, puts on a pair of aviator glasses that always seem to have way bigger lenses than any human face should be able to carry without suffering severe structural collapse, and rigs up a portable tape deck to his sound system. The speakers start moaning out that same Springsteen-like crap about how it's been "twenty long years here" and "the fire's still burnin'," and it really starts to bother me because then I start thinking this might actually be Springsteen, so I stop the movie and look it up. Turns out the song is "Road of the Gypsy" by a band called Adrenalin. I hear they do a great "Thunder Road."
Anyway, Doug cuts out into traffic, causing one car to veer dangerously to the side. Actually it sort of looks like the car was deliberately aiming to crash into him while parked normally along the side of the road, and Doug instead does an amazing job of getting out of the way. It honestly looks to me like someone just tried to murder Doug. He continues to drive like a fucking maniac, tailgating and speeding around slow-moving cars in a no-passing zone, nearly causing a series of head-on collisions before speeding through an Air Force base checkpoint to continue his reign of terror. I guess it's supposed to illustrate that Doug has really good reflexes, but all it says to me is that Doug is a total dick who doesn't check before swerving into the middle of the road, doesn't obey speed limits or road markings, and has no business behind the wheel of a car. Or, in short, Doug is a man who doesn't play by the rules!
Doug stops by a drive-in burger joint where a couple other Air Force Academy dorks are hanging out. The black guy is busy undulating in some truly hideous attempt at a dance that looks like a bizarre mix of the Funky Chicken and the Robot. He asks Doug how he thinks his new moves are coming along; he's practicing for the prom tonight.
"You guys look great!" Doug lies. Doug is much more diplomatic than me, because my response would have been "If you ever dance like that again, I will slam your head in my car door until the horrible twitching stops." This probably explains why Doug has friends and I don't.
The noise of a car horn draws their attention, where we see a white Gremlin being tailgated by a truck while a guy on an orange dirtbike pops wheelies in front. The Gremlin stops in the parking lot, where Doug's girlfriend is rather distressed. She says that the truck and the guy on the bike have been harassing her for a while now, so Doug goes to kick all their asses as they follow her into the parking lot. They're led by the biker, a guy in a denim jacket distressingly named Knotcher. Doug's buddies hold him back while Knotcher has some fun busting his balls. "Just having a little fun with your girlfriend. Figured I might show her there's more in life than some pussy Air Force brat."
You'd better believe it's on after that. Air Force brats never like being reminded of what pussies they are. Knotcher says that if he wants to settle this, all he's gotta do is "grow some ball"s and "run the Snake" with him, which sounds much, much gayer than it is.
"Man, you've got Snake on the brain!" shouts Doug's nerdy friend with exactly two lines in the entire movie. That was one of them. Although "Snake on the Brain" is pretty awesome as walk-on lines go.
Anyway, Doug is not willing to run the Snake with anyone and goes back to his car. His little brother hurries onto the scene (how the hell did he get here so fast?) to deliver a letter that came right after he left. Everyone gathers around in excitement to watch Doug get soundly rejected by Air Force training program. Again. Doug crumples up the letter and tosses it.
"Well, guess you kinda had to expect it," says Dance Maniac.
"Let's face it Doug, with your grade-point average?" says Doug's Friend With Exactly Two Lines, "We're talking subterranean range, here." I like how all of Doug's friends know that he's a short-tempered dullard who will never amount to anything and aren't afraid to say it to his face. Having a bunch of lackeys and yes-men is much more satisfying, but with pals like this at least you're never living under any delusions.
Knotcher somehow manages to telekinetically warp the rejection letter into the restaurant in a span of fifteen seconds and reads the tragic news over the P.A. system while his cronies hold the doors shut. Doug swears to kill the smug bastard but Knotcher tells him that flying the Snake is a decent way to even the score that won't have him languishing in jail. Oh sure, it'll probably mean they'll peel his corpse off the side of a mountain and be able to bury what's left in a can of Spaghetti-Os, but no jail time. Before you think this is turning into some kind of Greased Lightning montage, well, you're right, but with the added twist that this time Greased Lightning is a Cessna airplane. Knotcher gets to ride his motorcycle through Snake Canyon while Doug has to race him without climbing over 50 feet. Just like Beggar's Canyon back home.
Louis Gossett Jr. tinkers with Doug's airplane (yes, he owns an airplane) and tells him he's making the fuel mixture a lot richer so it won't stall out at the extremely low altitude-- probably what killed the last guy who tried this. Worse, while they're talking smack to each other one of Knotcher's buddies screws with the oil cap on the engine of Doug's plane. Wow, Knotcher must really want a crack at Doug's girlfriend and he's not afraid to kill to get it. Talk about some loyal friends. How many people do you know who would happily kill a man without hesitation if you asked them?
Doug starts up his plane after hooking up his tape deck. Ugh. Here we go: a guy who insists on bringing his own annoying pop music soundtrack with him. We're talking about a guy who makes his own compilation tapes, such as "Rollin' in my caddy," and "Racin' in my plane." There's only up-tempo "time to rock 'n' roll" music on this tape; you wouldn't want to be racing in a canyon at absurdly low altitudes only to have "We Don't Have To Take Our Clothes Off" play over your headphones. It just wouldn't work.
Knotcher wheelies his motorcycle onto a shortcut while Doug's other friends fly their own planes and watch. They tell Doug that Knotcher is on the fire road and "that'll knock ten minutes off his time." Ten minutes?! This scene is gonna take forever! Doug doesn't seem to be racing through the canyon so much as pulling senseless loops as his friends warn him about ominous-sounding landmarks like "Devil's Face." Smoke starts belching out of his engine and one of Knotcher's sadistic little imps giggles "wonder what a Cessna looks like splattered on a mountain!" and confesses that he fiddled with Doug's engine, but that Knotcher made him do it. Yeah, the Nuremberg defense will keep you out of prison, dude: you were just following orders. Seriously, how does this race not land every person involved in jail on attempted murder charges?
Everyone begs Doug to land the plane, but since he's an idiot, Doug says he can still win the race. What Doug doesn't stop to think about is that he could win all manner of races when Knotcher is behind bars for trying to kill him. Doug and Knotcher race neck-and-neck down the road towards a finish line banner made (appropriately) of toilet paper. Gee, if Doug weren't flying with his flaps down and causing an insane amount of drag he'd have won this race about three minutes ago. Anyway, Doug wins because he's in a fucking airplane and promptly crash-lands off to the side of the runway. Now if I were Knotcher I would probably leave town flee almost certain prosecution, but instead he decides to park in front of the wrecked plane and look smug.
Doug gets out, rightly angry and shouting "You tried to kill me!" Knotcher plays like he can't hear him-- and believe me, a "so what" attitude is really not helping his case at this particular moment-- and eats a right hook that puts him on the ground. Some geeky guy interrupts the celebration and tells Doug that he needs to get to the base in a hurry because his dad was just shot down. He meets with his mom and worry themselves for a while, but nobody will tell them any of the details. Doug doesn't take long to get impatient and starts storming through the base and into sensitive areas (because, y'know, he doesn't play by the rules!) shouting loudly for someone named Colonel Blackburn. Amazingly, MPs do not beat the shit out of him and leave him bleeding in a gray cell somewhere and he finds the colonel in a command center. Even more disappointing, Blackburn is not a jolly pirate as his name would suggest, merely a doughy white man who exudes all the authority of the Philly Fanatic. Blackburn tells him that Colonel Dad was shot down after crossing the Mediterranean.
"Hell, it's a buncha nonsense!" he says. Amen to that! Then he takes him to a map of Vague Middle-Eastern Land (the name of the country is never mentioned a single time in this movie) with a bunch of cool red and yellow arrows tacked onto it. "Now I'm gonna get my tit in a ringer if the general catches me showin' you this," he says, channeling the Southern accent of Boomhauer and throwing every weird Hee Haw cowpoke metaphor he can think of in every sentence he utters, "so keep yer mouth shut!" Apparently they were on some kind of navigation exercise to establish international airspace. The U.S. recognizes sovereign airspace 12 miles beyond the coast but the Vague Middle-Easterners claim 200.
"Usually they don't mess with us, but now..." he trails off, trying desperately to think of some way to work in a barnyard analogy like "but now they've caught us with our pants down with our cousin in a hayloft." I won't claim to understand whether or not the military would send flights into the airspace claimed by another nation whether "they usually don't mess with us" or not, but what bothers me is that Colonel Dad and his wingmen were clearly violating their airspace any way you slice it, 12 miles or 200, because I clearly recall them flying directly over the land during that entire fight. There wasn't an ocean in sight! No wonder the Vague Middle-Easterners opened fire so quickly.
A major interrupts to deliver a communique that they won't be getting the aircraft carrier they requested. Blackburn goes thermal and tells the major to "get on the phone to Admiral Whats-His-Nuts" (seriously) pronto. The major hurries off to a bright red rotary phone that I can only assume is linked directly to Commissioner Gordon's office while Blackburn continues to fume about how Admiral Whats-His-Nuts and the State Department treats the Air Force like a bunch of losers. "Christ, we're holdin' all the aces and they're playin' like we're holdin' a pair o' twos and we're just waitin' on a face card!"
I call a foul! That analogy isn't nearly farmer-oriented enough!
Doug asks Blackburn what the hell is going on, and to explain it so an idiot like him can understand. This could take a while. He says that they're putting Colonel Dad on trial, but it's probably just a stunt to use him as a bargaining chip to have the U.S. lift its trade embargo. There's not much anyone can do but wait for the government to issue its demands before they can even start to negotiate in good faith, and "the suits in the White House have tied our hands." Damn this red tape and regulations! If only we had a man who doesn't play by the rules!
Doug's mom tells him not to worry; this happened once before when Doug was four and Dad had to bail out over the Pacific (because he's not a very good pilot?), so he shouldn't change his plans. Dad would want him to go to prom and his graduation ceremony. Doug sees the truth in this and takes comfort in his flourishing 80s mullet. Dance Maniac tells him not to worry; the Air Force will kick ass if it has to, and unlike Iran when "Mr. Peanut was in charge," (huh?) "now we got this guy in the Oval Office who don't take shit off no gimpy little countries." That's the spirit! The sovereignty of gimpy little countries is meaningless! We take shit off nobody! America, fuck yeah! Let's put a boot in their ass!
"Why do you think they call him Ronnie Ray-Gun?" Um, because of the massive money pit we know as the Star Wars program? I've never seen someone so pleased that our current commander-in-chief is a belligerent douchebag who has no regard for maintaining a peaceful foreign policy. "Relax, Doug! Our president's basically a warmongering bastard. Military action is inevitable!"
Now we go to Vagueghanistan, which is your standard establishing shot of a desert with all sorts of those gold onion-shaped spires and some guy singing "Allaaaaaaaaah alleeyyyaaaa laayyyeeaaaahhh maaahhh yaaaahhhweeeehhhhh..." (little known fact: in Vague Arab Emirates it was the best-selling single of the year) Colonel Dad faces an assembly of high-ranking officials in full dress uniform and decides to act this scene as if he was scheduling an appointment for a colonoscopy. "This trial is a sham," he monotones. "At no time did I violate your airspace," and he's so boring I've already stopped paying attention. Hey Colonel, you know why they tell you only to give them your name, rank, and serial number? So you don't make an ass out of yourself and say something stupid in front of an assembly of their government officials and cause a potentially disastrous diplomatic shitstorm. I would give just about anything to have William Shatner in this guy's role. He would have knocked it out of the park.
The big boss, the guy in the grandest hat and wearing red epaulets fires up a stogie and rattles off the usual bad guy spiel about how "your American naivete continues to amaze me" and how our arrogance will be repaid tenfold on our sons and all that. He tells Dad that he's a pilot himself, and when he's flying he's always aware of his position and there's no way any pilot could have screwed up this badly. I agree with General Bad Guy. This is pretty embarrassing.
Speaking of embarrassing, the movie throws us violently back to Doug's prom which made the mistake of booking an all-girl fusion rock band, the kind that's all synthesizers and bass guitars that's usually playing loudly every time Chuck Norris needs to go into a strip club where the women never get naked. Nearly the entire crowd is stationary for two reasons: nobody could or would ever dance to this music, and the spectacle occurring in front of the stage is so shocking, so horrifying, so grotesque that it has captivated everyone's attention. They are witnessing total and utter social hara-kiri. Remember the guy who was practicing his dance moves outside the burger joint? Well he's busting them out right now, shattering the stereotype that all black people can dance in front of a hundred other students. His dance is a bizarre Frankenstein experiment of moves ranging through the 1950s to the 1970s without a legitimate innovation between them, transitioning wildly one decade to the next. We're talking Irish Wedding Reception-level dancing here, if your aunt were really hammered and the DJ started playing "You Spin Me Right Round" after the garter toss.
Even more amazing is the notion that he's managed to attract a woman with this bizarre series of gyrations, proving that only in Hollywood can someone who dances like Jaleel White find a dance partner. I feel compelled to analyze his technique so that it might be understood and avoided in the future, should you ever decide to attempt to light up the dance floor:
I think a sadly unexplored plot point was whether or not this guy actually got laid tonight.
• He begins with a sudden thrashing spasm of his arms akimbo. Early James Brown, perhaps?
• He then proceeds to stand at attention, then jukes his upper-body right, then left. I interpret this as an homage to "The Bird," an early-50s dance sensation when people still danced in fast-food burger joints and soda cafes.
• Without warning, he lashes his left hand out and nearly gouges out his partner's eye in what I can only guess must be a botched attempt at "the Swim."
• Squatting slightly now, he kicks his legs out one at a time. This is so off the map I assume it's improvisation, but maybe similar to a traditional Russian "Moskau" dance.
• Head lowered, he does a wave-rippling motion one arm to the next-- a clear transition into the Robot which, unfortunately, has never gotten anyone laid in the history of this planet.
• Briefly alternates swinging his fists in the air-- The Shake? I'm hesitant to classify this move as it's too slow and he keeps his arms too parallel to his shoulders.
• Momentarily performs a Mick Jagger "I'm So Hot For You" chicken-strut.
• Stuns the audience by transitioning into a full-on Moonwalk.
• Leapfrogs his partner, who is fortunate to have seen the attack coming or would have eaten a Lou Thesz press, Stone Cold Steve Austin style.
• James Brown "aaoooowww!" spin.
• Repeats his bird motif, now by attempting a pigeon-like head-bobbing motion over alternating shoulders.
• Ends by suddenly grabbing his partner in a leg-up tango position.
What, no Frug? No Robocop? I'm simply amazed that he didn't resort to that "look at me, I'm snorkeling" move where you pinch your nose and pretend like you're sinking. He did every other white-people dance there is. When the dance is over, the crowd roars in applause because they now have a story they can tell everyone they meet for years about the biggest jackass they ever met.
Doug gets pulled aside by the squeaky, dateless member of his tribe who reminds me of Piggy in Lord of the Flies. He tells Doug that he was eavesdropping on his dad (who works in the State Department) and the bad guys haven't made any demands. In fact, they've already gone and found Colonel Dad guilty, probably to set an example to the rest of the world that they don't sweat the U.S.. Richie the Man of 1000 Dances asks why we haven't just gone and killed everyone with an extensive campaign of carpet bombing followed by a massive Marine invasion. They might, if Colonel Dad was a large oil deposit. Alas, he's just a member of the American armed forces and the government basically doesn't give a shit about them.
The next day, Doug goes back to Colonel Blackburn to demand some answers. Strange that people like Doug and Piggy are allowed into highly-sensitive areas without passes or any sort of clearance and privy to high-level diplomatic discussions. Doug also seems to have dressed in the dark because he's wearing a tank top and a hooded sweatshirt with the sleeves scissored off. Blackburn seems too busy to think of any redneck metaphors and says he's sorry, but they're still too busy trying to exercise diplomatic options to even think about mounting a rescue operation. Damn that U.S. government, always playing by the rules!
Doug decides to blow off some steam by visiting the simulator (which, oddly, he also has full access to) and meets a sympathetic character who agrees to sneak him in for some sim time before the next guy comes in. Doug straps on his thigh-mounted tape deck and starts smashing MiGs to the tune of Queen's "One Vision." This is basically a long music montage to establish that Doug really could fly a jet aircraft if he needed to, even though the visuals look nothing like the interior of an actual military simulator. And I know this because I've been in several, and they most definitely don't look like stock footage of MiGs as seen by the heat-vision point of view of the Predator. He destroys 4 aircraft before a pair of enemies circle in behind and crush him.
He climbs out to find an irate Louis Gossett Jr. asking what the hell kind of flying that was-- he didn't even try to stop those aircraft getting on his tail. Doesn't he ever look behind him? Doug is indignant, saying he can't look behind him in an airplane. Gossett nearly slaps the sass out of the kid saying that's what his radar and HUD are for. Seems to me that a kid who knows how to fly an F-16 would know that, but clearly he doesn't.
Awed by the older gentlemen's superior combat knowledge of "check your radar," Doug pursues him outside and pesters him with lame questions about why he's working as a mechanic, to which the answer is "because I like fixing planes." He tells Doug not to worry; his dad's a strong man and he'll get through this. Doug sighs and says yeah, he only wishes there were other people that strong in the Air Force. Gossett stops, puts his hands on his hips and admirably resists his urge to feed this kid his own lungs. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Nobody's got the balls to go in there and force them to release him!" After all, "they're just a shitty little country."
Gossett tells him to chill the fuck out. Shitty country or not, nobody is going to want to go to war for one soldier, especially when diplomacy is still a viable option. Besides, he's seen it all before; the military is dragging its feet on a rescue operation because "too many people up there are making decisions" and the situation would get over-planned and too complicated when bound up in that much red tape.
Doug says great, but could he plan it? Alone? A small operation. Hypothetically, could one under-age idiot piloting a fully-armed F-16 go in and rescue a man? Gossett should either be doubled-over in laughter by now or too busy kicking Doug's head into a curb to answer this seriously, but instead he just answers "possibly!" But he doesn't seem to take the hint that Doug is referring to himself when he mentions a certain under-age idiot piloting the F-16. Doug tells him he's got the whole base "wired" and can get him aerial recon, intelligence, SIGINT, anything. A kid claiming that he has hooks into every aspect of a major Air Force base's intelligence and operations capabilities and is actively threatening to use them to engage in a terrorist action should bother him a lot more than it seems to, because he tells Doug to just forget it and starts to climb into his jet.
Doug throws a hissy-fit, saying Gossett is just like everyone else. He doesn't give a shit! Oh, bad move. You better believe that turns Chappy around. He whips his hat off and leaps into one of the most badass patriotic speeches ever filmed. Ladies and gentlemen, click on the link. I present to you...Louis Gossett, Jr.
"You really believe that nonsense you're saying?"
"Look at me when I talk to you!"
"Lemme clue you in on somethin' right now. I've given this country 22 damn fuckin' years of my life. 22 years! I've seen young boys blown outta the aiiiiir over the Pacific, seen their guts sprawled all over the rice paddies of Vietnam, so every time somebody dies for this country, believe me boy, I give a shit!"God damn it, nobody talks to me like this! I'm not gonna start now! You wanna help your father? Hm? You be strong for your family. You stay right here!"
"22 damn fuckin' years?" Now that's some Garth Ennis-level cursing. Although I don't really recall the Vietnamese being especially known for their crack air force, I'm sure someone will correct me with exactly how many jet pilots died at the hands of the NVA. The entire time he's setting Doug straight, Chappy looks like he's trying to incinerate him with his heat vision. He's lucky Chappy didn't string him up onto the end of a Sidewinder missile by his underwear. I don't think I'd ever have the balls to talk that much smack to any veteran, and if I did, I wouldn't expect to keep them for long.
This awesome speech blasts Doug completely out of the scene and suddenly he finds himself at his graduation, still wearing a vacantly pissed-off expression and trying in vain to think of a witty retort. So far all he's come up with is the "jerk store" line. The valedictorian goes up to make his speech and everyone reflexively starts imagining themselves someplace else. Doug flashes back to happier times when he was illegally flying an F-16 with his father and doing seriously stupid things in them, not the least of which is bringing his fucking tape deck and playing that stupid "Road of a Gypsy" song again during a training exercise. They nearly get busted when Dad's wingman points out that they were flying like complete retards and for some reason the open comm was choked with a shitty Springsteen cover band.
Dad says that's it, if Doug is going to keep acting like a tool, the F-16 rides are over. You'd think Doug would respect his dad enough to admire the risks he's taking in allowing non-military personnel to fly a fully-armed attack fighter and not do blatantly obvious things that would basically ensure that his father would face a court martial and certain prison time if caught. But oh no, we must listen to the Boss while we pull juvenile loop-de-loops in a multi-million dollar war machine. "C'mon, daaad!" Doug whines.
"Don't come on me, Dad!" his father responds, completely flubbing his line in the funniest way possible. He tells Doug he's really got to stop being such a dickweed and show some responsibility. None of it seems to get through at the time, of course. Doug just cops an attitude, throws him a patronizing salute and gives him the "sir, can your pathetic son begone His Majesty's sight, sir?" routine. Oh, the irony.
On the way home, Mom tells the kids that she's heard Washington and Dad's been sentenced to hang in three days. That's all the incentive Doug needs to summon the rest of the gang and start planning his one-man invasion of Generistan.
Meanwhile, the Evil Defense Minister climbs out of his MiG and visits Dad in prison. He tells dad he's trying to be a nice guy, but if he doesn't sign a confession then the Fearless Leader is going to make him do all sorts of Gitmo-type things to him involving broomsticks and electrodes. Dad says he'd love to give the Fearless Leader a confession. "I'd shove it up his ass!" he shouts. Seems like a stupid thing to say, I know, but just imagine how much worse off he'd be if he just kept his damn fool mouth shut. EDM is showing the patience of a saint in putting up with Dad's attitude. Does he have some kind of death wish? It's not like it takes three days to throw a rope over something. They didn't book reservations at Red Lobster afterward. They can hang you whenever they feel like, and when you say things like "jam it up your ass, towel-head" there's exactly diddly keeping them moving up that little timetable.
Doug summons the rest of his friends at his clubhouse-- and yes, they have an official clubhouse that's bigger than most peoples' homes. It's a wide open area decorated with tons of flashing road hazard markers (that I can only assume are stolen), beanbag chairs, and several couches. The entire place looks like a great place to launch a new series of Remote Control on MTV. Forget this place as a clubhouse, rent it as a summer home.
Doug assigns each of his minions a task to help him take over the base and launch his mission, beginning with Piggy. Under the pretense of delivering files to a clerical worker, he covertly taps a single key on her keyboard, causing the monochrome screen (state-of-the-art, baby) to start flooding with garbage. Yes, that's the way DOS worked back in the day: you were one errant keypress away of total stack dump Armageddon. It wasn't too long ago that anyone who showed any marginal proficiency in computers was revered as some alien techno-wizard. If you actually knew what the "Scroll Lock" key did you were a god among insects, and so this nerd inflicts utter devastation on a military terminal by smacking a function key. C'mon now. Lotus Notes didn't crash that easily. Piggy tells the lady to go input the data on the mainframe while he takes a look at the terminal, an offer the woman is only too eager to accept to escape the horrible tangle of insanity sprawling all over her screen like some digital Cthulhoid gateway. See, because women know nothing about computers. It's funny!
Alone in the office, Piggy clears up the screen while Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It" starts to play. Isn't it sad how a once-rebellious rock anthem made by a legitimate shock artist has now become so overplayed and mainstream it's now an ironic self-parody of teenage defiance. Arnold Schwartzenegger used it as his campaign song when he was running as a Republican to be governor of California, and if a Republican using a Twisted Sister song at a campaign rally isn't a sign that rock has been dead for a long, long time, I direct your attention to everything Ozzy has done in the last five years. I reckon Metallica's "St. Anger" album was the last nail in that coffin.
The rest of the gang infiltrates other parts of the base using their innocent army-brat wanderings as a cover to commit high treason and espionage. The girls steal reconnaissance photos in the archives while others pester innocent aircraft mechanics for no reason I can figure out by staging a fake terrorist attack on their hangar by pitching hundreds of lit firecrackers into an empty fuel drum. Oh, those lovable scamps, it's so funny when you make the military think that there are terrorists opening fire on them while you steal highly-sensitive information!
This is less-dignified than Louis Gossett's role in The Deep when he gets decapitated by an angry stingray. And believe me, that was a pretty low point in his career.
Doug goes back to Chappy armed with all this intelligence and begs him one last time for help. Chappy calls the MPs immediately and has Doug arrested. Actually he invites him inside where he's already got the one-man war half-planed. I'm stunned at how receptive Chappy is to Doug's plan, but in classic Louis Gossett fashion, he explains that there's just something about the way those bad guys are treating an American soldier that "pisses me off!" He bumps a nearby jukebox like the Fonz which starts playing some good old-fashioned soul music. Doug wrinkles his nose (attempting to add a third expression to his limited dramatic range, and failing) asking "how can you think with that music on?"
Oh I don't know Doug, it's only James Brown, the Godfather of Soul: one of the most influential and defining artists of the entire history of American music. What was I thinking? By all means, start playing some Def Leppard; that ought to elevate the culture in this room. Fuckstick.
Although I'm right along with Doug calling for the music to stop immediately when Chappy starts dancing around. I won't go so far as to say it's a worse dance than the prom scene. That may not be possible. But how do you compare it when Louis Gossett is strutting around a table in way too tight Dockers shaking his ass back and forth like Shakira. And I looked. God help me, I looked. I knew I shouldn't have, but I did. How could I not? His ass was right in the middle of the screen swinging back and forth like I was watching some weird table dance by Reginald Veljohnson. Part of me will never return.
Chappy does his horrible ass-dance around all his paperwork while he strategizes the invasion. Then he has Doug keep pace and read him intelligence statistics while jogging (Louis Gossett in tiny jogging shorts, noooo!) and even afterwards while he's in the shower (naked Louis Gossett covered in suds, noooooo!). Then he takes Doug out to an Italian restaurant where he starts outlining the Vague Middle-Eastern defense array using a combination of carrots, olives, and pepperonis, cautioning "this cheese here will really nail your ass." I'm more distracted by the uncharacteristic notion that an Italian restaurant is owned by Chappy's friend Slappy. Chappy and Slappy? They sound like the hosts of a Nickelodeon kids' show or a pair of vulgar party clowns known for their erotic puppet shows about venereal disease. Chappy says they'll need at least two pilots, not one, and he might be willing to fly. But he's not committing to anything yet. He still doesn't believe Doug can pull his load, neither to get the armed aircraft or to fly it against live opponents when the time comes. So he tells Doug to prove he can hack it by scheduling two F-16s and a trainer craft under false names for tomorrow so they can shake him down in combat and see what he's made of.
It's now been a full hour and there has yet to be any official Shit Blowing Up. I am very disappointed.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Dad is getting worked over in a chair by a soldier. I almost hate to say he had this coming, but... Anyway, it's just another scene where the bad guy taunts him with the usual "I see you are no stranger to pain, Colonel" rhetoric. But really, is this the best torture they could devise to get him to sign a confession? A scrawny guy giving him a mild beating? What's next, wet willies followed by forced power sit-ups? (For those of you who don't know, a power sit-up is performed exactly like a normal sit-up, except at the end your face is teabagged in someone's sweaty swampassed man-crack with their balls resting under your nose. Ah, those mad japes kids play!)
What, you never got that in high school?
Anyway, Piggy's techno-havoc pays off and Doug manages to finneagle an F-16 in the confusion for a training op. Chappy tells Doug to show him what he can do, so he does things like, uh, pull up, and turn! And he barrel rolls! Did I mention turning? He specifically tells Chappy to pay attention to his excellent turning. In my opinion his most amazing talent is his strange ability to make the weapons disappear off his wings in about three-quarters of the exterior shots of his airplane. Naturally, he does all this while listening to some abrasively bad rock music, which Chappy angrily tells him to shut off over Doug's whiny protests.
"It'll screw up my rhythm!" he snivels until Chappy offers to screw him up if he doesn't kill the music. I'm not sure rhythm has much to do with piloting an aircraft-- it certainly has nothing to do with firing guided ordnance -- but apparently the lack of skin-peelingly bad tunes really does have a devastating effect on his flying when they reach the bombing range. Doug starts spraying ordnance all over the place, hitting everything except the giant blue targets on the ground and prompting Chappy to call the whole war off. Doug snaps and puts his music back on, demanding to do this his way. He's physically incapable of playing by the rules! Suddenly all his bombs and missiles re-appear (hax!) and he starts obliterating everything blue, wooden, and square on the range. Clearly the tape deck gives him superpowers. I just doubt very much that a Hellfire missile is any more likely to hit if Freddy Mercury happens to be playing at the time.
Chappy still isn't convinced until Doug puts the piece de resistance on his argument: a barrel roll. Oh, the humanity! For some reason this elementary maneuver causes Chappy's fudge to drop despite being a veteran pilot of 22 years, and he agrees that he's almost ready as soon as they make some final preparations with the other conspirators.
These preparations take place back at Chappy's, presumably because he has a jukebox that plays good music for a change. It's another montage of the club looking busy while "Proud Mary" screams out of the jukebox. Most of the kids have nothing serious to contribute to the operation except Piggy and the mechanic kid, so they stand off to the side while Chappy is attempting to pass on some serious combat advice (you know, like "don't get shot") and make snarky jackass remarks. You can be assured that any scene that Richie the Dance Machine is in, he tries to steal it by making some weird exaggerated spastic motion and saying some random non-sequitir like "you better duck or you'll be back-strokin'!" Chappy also attempts to school Doug on how to perform an in-flight refueling: a tactic made famous (and slightly erotic) in the MST3K classic film The Starfighters, by far the best movie featuring 55 minutes of refueling footage ever made. Most of Chappy's advice isn't about the process in specific, it's trying to get Doug to put a little bass in his voice so he doesn't sound like Squiggy when he radios in to the refueling craft. I'm not sure what the big deal is, the actor playing Doug looks like he's in his mid-20s anyway.
That night, Chappy shows up in uniform and boots the jukebox, using his Fonz powers to kill "Proud Mary" cold, which has apparently been playing nonstop for eleven hours. He congratulates the kids as "the finest planning staff...ever" which says a lot of things about military intelligence that I don't want to think about. He pulls Doug aside and tells him he's adding a new weapon to Doug's craft because his own is already overloaded: the Hades bomb. It's an incendiary device (that doesn't really exist) that Chappy claims will put up an impenetrable smoke screen for five minutes which will give Doug exactly that long to land at the prison compound, rescue Dad, and take off again.
Chappy tells Doug "get your butt in my trailer," which I can't help but snicker at because it sounds unnecessarily homoerotic and he says it about six times in this scene. Doug whines that he wants to call his mom and his girlfriend before he leaves, to which Chappy basically says "yeah, exactly, and that's why you're not going to, idiot." They're too close to let Doug fuck up this operation blabbing about it to his mom so Chappy insists that he climb into his trailer for the night (*snicker*). Doug looks whiny and indignant-- his default expression, so it's barely worth remarking on-- and stalks off. In case you're wondering, Doug's other two expressions are "mouth-breathing depression" and "manic bloodlust."
Chappy finds Doug chillaxin' on his couch watching TV instead of getting some rest, and this pisses him off to no end. He tells Doug to get to bed pronto, but Doug (seemingly dedicated to making sure this mission fails in record time) whines that he doesn't need any rest for what's coming tomorrow; he's ready. Check out the balls on this kid: he's not sweating the fact that in a few hours he is going to invade a sovereign nation and kill quite a few people. He's so confident, in fact, that he doesn't feel it necessary to get a good night's sleep. Can't afford to miss Jay Leno doing the week's headlines, can we? I made sure to get extra sleep the night before I went to a sci-fi convention, and Doug here plans to provoke an international incident on less than four hours of shuteye. God, I hate this nut-juggling jizz-diver.
Chappy tosses him a photo album his days in the 'Nam of all his dead buddies who thought they were ready, too, giving another monologue about how many poor kids he's seen burn alive and how responsible he feels. It's actually a rather good performance-- better than this movie deserves. As much as I bag on Gossett's role in this movie, he is the only guy bringing significant talent to the fore. I think it's just that he often seems to be overacting, when he's not; he's just the only guy acting at all while everyone else plays to stereotype and dully recites their lines or attempts to ham up their scenes with physical comedy. When Doug finally goes off to sleep, Chappy takes his tape recorder and destroys it.
Just kidding, he records a death-tape explaining how proud he is of Doug, but he couldn't find the courage to tell him while he was still alive. Louis Gossett has been in movies long enough to know that mentor characters never survive past the second act, so he tapes a farewell monologue in advance for when he bites the dust protecting Doug. Prudent move!
As we watch Doug and Chappy suit up and launch their F-16s I try to count the ways in which this entire premise bothers me. Even when I saw this as a kid I didn't really believe this could ever happen, but now this disbelief is replaced with a desperate hope that this could never happen. Remember, the makers of Iron Eagle didn't even bother approaching the Air Force for cooperation because they don't want it well-known how easy it is to steal a pair of fully-armed jets. But let's just work out how many things have to go right in order for this plan to go off without a hitch-- and I'm no expert so this list is probably only half-baked, but let's just try to reason it out:
Let's just accept that they have full access to intelligence and reconnaissance information because of their ability to sneak around the base and steal classified documents at will. Even if true, they will no doubt be witnessed, documented, and photographed and therefore implicated in the scheme and therefore brought up on espionage charges at the least.
They need to falsify flight plans for two armed fighter jets with specialized loadouts including a Hades bomb for two phony pilots, get these plans approved, and somehow sneak this past the CAG who is specifically in charge of flight assignments and would know if any operations taking place.
They need to also arrange for a refueling craft and have that flight plan approved, further involving a sizeable crew and another command staff entirely who would want to look over the mission dossier.
Both of them, despite being well-known around the base, are not recognized by the flight crew, nor are their assumed identities questioned. Is nobody paying attention to the flight rosters when two new officers show up unannounced and perform unusual flight operations?
They are not debriefed by an officer following their training flight despite their responsibility for the several hundred thousand dollars' worth of ordnance they dropped on the bombing range. Is there no human supervision here?
I know I'm overanalyzing an Airplane Porn movie, but it's hard for me to justify the actions Doug and Chappy are taking as those of protagonists that I should root for. Part of me legitimately sympathizes with the Vague Middle-Easterners here. The American pilots did violate their airspace and the prisoner isn't exactly making himself a model of dignity before the eyes of the world. I'm not defending their use of torture, forced confessions, or their disregard for diplomacy at all, but what do you expect when you order a pair of jets beyond the borders of a sovereign nation after they specifically warned the U.S. that such actions might be met with hostility. This is a situation provoked by the U.S., and whether or not Doug's rescue mission succeeds it'll be hard to maintain plausible deniability in the eyes of the rest of the world. It'll be a diplomatic nightmare that could have lasting effects across the globe. "Oh sure, two guys just happened to steal jets and bomb strategic targets without your knowledge. Good one, Mr. President."
Their takeoffs are plagued with the usual inconsistencies. They're fully-armed on the ground, but then we see stock footage of takeoffs and the planes are completely bare. "Road of a Gypsy" starts to drone out again, and man, someone really had a hard-on for that song when this movie was made because this is about the fourth time it's played out in its entirety. I'm bloody amazed to see that for a while the exterior shots of the aircraft are actually consistent down to the Hades bomb on Doug's F-16. When they make their first refueling stop, however, the effect is laughably cheap, clearly employing a couple of toys while an off-screen fan blows smoke past the lens. You can basically see the torn decals on the tail of the refueling plane.
An hour and sixteen minutes in, and we still haven't blown anything up. Doug is still whining about how he never told his dad how much he loved him, and he's starting to get nervous that he'll screw all this up and that his breakfast cereal is starting to repeat on him. Chappy tells him to shut the hell up and focus on the plan. They drop down to 3,000 feet and change their flight plan, eventually going down to 400 feet to slip under their radar. Chappy says they got the radar through French that "you can fool with foil packs."
"I didn't know that," Doug says, impressed.
"Betcha didn't know that!" Chappy boasts. Um, he just said that he didn't know that. I think someone got the shots out of order in the editing room.
Anyway, they cross the shore and begin their attack on a Vague Middle-Eastern airfield. Doug cranks up "One Vision" while bombing the holy hell out of it, which even Chappy seems to dig because everyone bows to the Queen. Personally I think this scene would have played out a lot better if they'd picked "Don't Stop Me Now" or maybe "Tie Your Mother Down." Heck, "Bicycle Race" would have been pretty funny, firebombing pilots in their bunks while crooning along to "Fat-Bottomed Girls," maybe...
They hammer the airfield with cluster bombs and are forced to deal with a trio of "MiGs" that manage to take off before they finish off the runway. It would have made sense to bomb the runway first instead of focusing on the control tower, but whatever. Chappy nails one of them, causing the other two to retreat behind a wall of anti-aircraft fire. The ground units manage to hit Chappy's plane before the kid takes out the gun emplacements with his Vulcan cannon. Isn't "Vulcan cannon" fun to say? It just sounds like it fucks things up because Spock probably designed it. Live long and prosper? I don't think so.
Chappy tells Doug to load the death-tape and to play it when-- I mean if something happens to him. They agree to split up: Doug stays on-mission while Chappy tries to split the "MiGs" pursuing them by heading back for the ocean. Both of them somehow manage to teleport behind their respective pursuers and after a tense moment wrestling with their computer lock destroy them with bursts through their Vulcan cannons. Vulcan cannons are dumbfire weapons and computer locks are therefore meaningless, but it just looks and sounds cool in a movie when the computer thingy turns red and goes *beeeeeeeeep!*. I'm also pretty sure that MiGs do not explode like wooden models sold at Murray's Model World stuffed with an M-80 when struck by a Vulcan cannon, but damn it, explosions are cool too.
Chappy's turbine craps out on him and he says he's probably not going to make it moments before he doesn't make it. I don't know why he doesn't eject. His squawking computer has the right idea when it starts flashing "EJECT EJECT EJECT EJECT DUMBASS" across his HUD, and he's over the ocean, but maybe he decided not to. "That's just what they'd expect me to do..."
"Chappyyyyyyyyyyyy!" wails Doug. New Oscar clip!
Doug plays the death-tape, which is basically another excuse to milk another inspirational Braveheart monologue out of Louis Gossett. He convinces Doug to keep going without him, and says that the rest of the tape will guide him through the rest of the mission. Chappy must have planned on biting the dust pretty early. This is really just a device to provide a running narration to what Doug is doing and why he's doing it, but am I alone in thinking his voice-beyond-the-grave is a completely intentional parallel to Obi-Wan telling Luke to use the Force at the end of Star Wars?
The Evil Defense Minister starts getting reports of the destroyed airfield on the largest cell phone in the world back in days when we interpreted "portable phone" as "a hunk of depleted uranium the size of a milk carton." He tells his cabinet of Extras in Uniforms he "wants these American peegs blown out of the sky," a line I was just waiting for.
Doug comes up on another airfield and starts bombing the jesus out of it while rocking out to "Gimme Some Lovin'." He radios in to the Evil Defense Minister with the song playing and in his squeaky teen voice that he commands an entire squadron of American fighters and he wants Colonel Dad waiting in a jeep at the end of the northern run way of the prison compound or he'll start bombing a series of five strategic targets beginning with their largest oil refinery.
"Pigs..." snaps the EDM in the same way Jerry Seinfeld snarls "Newman!" What is it with foreign movie villains always calling us pigs. It's always "ze kapitalistik pikdoks" or "you Yanqui peegs will pay." It seems like Germanic languages get to have all the fun with our frankensteining of new and creative swear words, like assclown, turdburglar, and buttmunch. See, we've elevated our culture beyond picking on simple livestock and have evolved to passive-aggressively marginalizing homosexuals. Not that I approve. Denigrating anyone like that is just gay.
Flying over the prison, it doesn't seem like anyone's responding to Doug's threat, so he radios them back to ask what the progress is. The guy in the tower lamely tries to make up a lie like "Uh...we're um...all out of jeep." So Doug zips over to trash their oil refinery, or should I say...
That is so not an oil refinery!!! But Doug ends up cluster-bombing the fuck out of it and celebrating the deaths of innocent engineers, oh no! Say goodbye to your potable water, assholes, Douggie's in a bad fucking mood! Someone in military intelligence fucked up in a big way, here. No wonder we thought there were WMDs in Iraq; apparently we can't tell raw sewage apart of crude oil.
EDM decides to play along for now and has Colonel Dad moved to the end of the runway, but just as Doug is landing to pick him up, the Minister orders a sniper to "cut him to peeces." The sniper guns Dad down, sending Doug back into the air in a kill-crazy rage. Wouldn't it have been smarter to wait for him to land and then shoot them both? You know, with an RPG? Or even a .50 cal machinegun would probably do it. EDM looks surprised when Doug launches back into the air and starts raining fiery death on everything taller than seven feet. He loops around and starts heading for the air control tower where EDM has been watching the proceedings with binoculars. EDM makes a run for it and somehow survives, even though there's no fucking way he managed to scurry down fifty feet of stairs and run out the door to evade an explosion that size. Some troops fire toy surface-to-air missiles at Doug, but it turns out that weapons made by Testors don't work very well.
Doug drops the Hades bomb on the runway to cover his second landing attempt, sending up a wall of fire that wards off the foot troops finishing Dad off. Interesting then that the Hades bomb is still there on his belly when he lands. I didn't exactly have to tick through the movie in slow-motion to spot this, the fucking bomb is only mounted in the direct center of the craft and is painted bright red.
The Hades bomb also apparently drops little ramps amidst the flames, because when EDM orders his jeeps to attack through the flames they suddenly leap into the air, roll over several times and crash. After witnessing this, a pair of guys saddle up on a motorcycle and its sidecar and charge solo into the flames, who are both rather unsurprisingly burned to a cinder. These guys sat there, watched the jeeps utterly fail to go through the fire and die in screaming torment, looked at each other, said "we can totally make it" and gunned the engine. That, ladies and gentlemen, is huevos.
Doug hauls Dad into the back seat of his F-16 and fiddles with the controls when he sees some armored vehicle push its way through the flames. He asks his dad if missiles will fire if they're on the ground, to which he replies "Uh, I don't know. I don't think anyone's ever been that stupid." In reality, the answer is no, they don't, but they do in this movie. They take off and flee a Big Fucking Squadron of MiGs. The EDM orders one of them to land and commandeers his aircraft (because this time, it's personal). Dad asks for an inventory on their fuel and weapons, neither of which is good. They'll never make it to the sea at this speed while they're being pursued and they've only got two Sidewinders left. They decide to turn and face their pursuers.
"Think you can handle a loop?" Dad asks. Well, yes, but a loop would accomplish exactly squat. I think you mean an Immelmann, which would have you turned around and ready to attack. But loops are cool, an Immelmann sounds too technical. Besides, who needs loops or Immelmanns when you can do barrel rolls?
This loop somehow magically puts them behind the MiGs, both of which Doug easily destroys. Yes, I said both, even though I clearly saw something like eight of them in the last scene. It would have helped if these guys didn't construct their fighter jets out of balsa wood. The Evil Defense Minister (who has somehow found a way to turn "colonel" into a five-syllable word) finally gets into the air for a final showdown and fires off a missile. Doug evades the heat-seeking missile completely by busting out his ultimate move: the barrel roll! No countermeasures, chaff or flares, no sir. A barrel roll that doesn't change your heat signature at all will totally flummox a computerized guidance mechanism. If that's all you need to do to dodge a missile it's a wonder anyone gets killed at all. "Sir, incoming missile! Wrench the flight stick to one side and you should be okay!"
EDM stays locked on his tail and cuts loose with a burst of his Vulcan cannon. Barrel roll! Another volley! Barrel rolled again! Tap Z or R twice, Doug! One more barrel roll puts Doug in prime firing position and he jams a Sidewinder up the guy's ass! Hilariously, the bad guy tries to barrel roll away the missile and it doesn't work! Eat that, Starfox!
More MiGs chase them across the ocean until a wing of American F-16s led by (I kid you not) Major Smiley runs them off and escorts them back to Ramstein. There, Doug meets back up with Chappy who managed to survive by being picked up by an Egyptian fishing trawler. Already I want to punch this movie. Why in the hell wouldn't Chappy announce over the radio to Doug that he was ejecting? It's almost as if he wanted to give the impression that he'd gotten splattered all over the Mediterranean as some kind of sick joke.
They're escorted into a court-martial (can Doug even be court-martialed?) where a truly bad actor tells them that there isn't a set of charges written down that can encompass the level of stupidity these two guys have engaged in. Actually he says they're looking at 25 years if they're convicted, but if they let news of this operation get out the U.S. will be the laughingstock of the world. Which hasn't really stopped us doing really dumb shit before, but I see their point. You could just classify the proceedings, and throw them both in a hole in Leavenworth so dark and deep they'd be halfway to China, but instead they're going to release them on condition that they keep their mouths shut. Chappy convinces them that Doug is an idiot who can't be trusted and has him appointed to the Air Force Academy where his murderous impulses can be positively channeled. That's right. Not only are they not punished, they're rewarded.
Doug Masters returns in Iron Eagle 2...and gets killed by Russians in about two minutes. So even if you really liked this movie and were expecting more of the same in the sequel, they find a way to totally devastate you by completely slaughtering the hero before the opening credits have finished rolling. Thinking back on it, I remember walking out of Iron Eagle 2 as a kid because I was so pissed off over this. How can you not call shenanigans on a flick that kills off Doug so easily. We're talking about a kid who single-handedly wrecks an entire country with no real training and should be fucking amazing now that he's actually got years of Air Force training. I blame it on the Academy, truth be told. They took a lone wolf and tried to civilize him. You can't teach Doug Masters how to take orders and fly by the book. Don't you know that he doesn't play by the rules?
If I hate this movie so much, why does that still make me mad?