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I actually thought this film improved with each viewing - some of the comic lines were lost first time around, with people speaking together, and rotor noise from the aircraft. Air America is probably a little too script-by-numbers, but only if you think about it too much - the key is to just enjoy the action and the comedy. I couldn't tell whether Mel Gibson's character was incredibly laid back, or if the actor just wasn't giving his all - but for me, the more interesting characters were the supporting cast anyway: David Marshall Grant as Rob Diehl and Art LaFleur as Jack Niely. There were a few too many pilots to pad all of the cast out, but the collective effort provided much of the humour. Robert Downey, Jnr. was perhaps the best out of the main cast, from cheesy 'eye in the sky' pilot ('the traffic is kinda sad, kinda bumsy-looking'), to Air America rookie, lost in a world of 'bar girls, squiggly writing on signs, and more bar girls'. Neither Gibson or Downey, Jnr. were particularly convincing as pilots, but luckily the planes (such as Pilatus Porters and Caribous) had enough character to pull off the airborne scenes. Downey, Jnr.'s character had a spectacular, if not slightly drawn out, crash-landing scene, slowly dismantling his aircraft as he slid along an old airstrip. The soundtrack was also a bonus, placing the film in time where the main characters were slightly anachronistic. Frank Sinatra's 'Come Fly With Me' saved the cliched ending with the same droll humour that was peppered throughout the rest of the movie. Overall, Air America is a film best watched with your brain switched to 'idle' - although the subject is serious, the film is best as pure entertainment.
... because, whilst it doesn't have anything overly outstanding about
it, it manages to be very entertaining. Perhaps it's just because the
pairing of Gibson and Downey, Jr. appeals to me. Whatever it is, I
found the setup interesting, the comedy funny and the action nicely
I'm tempted to say that its lukewarm reception was down to poor marketing, but I'm not sure that's true. Maybe I just have to accept that I quite like a movie that the majority think is bad.
I don't know what it is with Gibson and 'non-Lethal-Weapon' action comedies, but "Bird on a Wire" seems to be regarded as another commercial failure, and I enjoyed that one too. Time to take me off to the funny farm... ?
With Gibson involved; Couldn't wait for the show to hit the screen in Houston so I could take My kids and show them a reasonable representational response to their: "What did you do in the war, Daddy?" - (I was an H-34 Driver, out of Udorn '66 - '68)... Despite Gibson's standard magnificent acting, the writing was a bummer compared to the REAL calibers of wit & humor that took place. It's a damn shame the writer didn't have tapes of the up-country aircraft comm traffic to draw from; you'd be waking-up in the middle of the night, laughing at the one-liners. In 28-years and 13,000+ flight-hours in 7-Nations on 5-Continents; that was the greatest bunch of maniacs I ever had the honor of working with.
This film rendition of Christopher Robbin's "Air America", the story of CIA's secret airforce in Laos during the Vietnam War has been fluffed up a tad too much. I would have hoped they would have kept the tone of the book which was a bit edgier; more like the film version of MASH. This version makes the "non-war" in Laos seem like a Disney World Ride. However Mel Gibson and Robert Downey Jr make it worth the price of admission. After you watch the flick track down the book for the REAL story.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I picked out this DVD out of the cheepo bin at Walmart because the
cover showed one of the planes I flew during Viet-Nam (C-123k). I did
not fly for Air America, but knew being a C-123 pilot, I knew a lot who
did, including those who flew in my Reserve Unit back home. I am not a
movie critic, but wonder about the subliminal motivation of Directors
and Writers who make movies like this. The best part of this movie has
to go to the cameraman. The flying shots and stunts (although totally
cartoon like) are excellent. The movie begins with Hollywood's favorite
fall guy in 1969. But the fact is, Nixon did not start Air America, he
did not begin the lies. Johnson was responsible for Air America and
Nixon inherited the lies, the war, and Air America. Its not fair or
accurate to portray Nixon as a liar on the subject of Air America. All
President's have inherited the lies of their predecessors. Nobody smart
enough to fly a C-123 was dumb enough to not know what they were
joining. That makes the Downey character unbelievable. A C-123 was a
rugged airplane. It could easily fly on one engine, or the two
auxiliary jet engines. The three stooges shooting a duck with one shot
is more likely. Pilots who flew with Air America were civilian
employees of the CIA, they were not reckless soldiers of fortune. They
had a good reason to behave and believe in a future, if they survived
their extremely dangerous job. They were given double time towards a
retirement pension. They weren't required to sell dope or guns to get a
good pension. Dope was legal and a way of life in SEA, as it still is
today in Afganistan. If individual pilots tried to make money on the
side, it was not CIA policy. The CIA was fighting a war on communism,
not drugs. The writer based his story on "war stories". Pilots love to
BS anybody who will buy them a beer and listen. The writer and Director
who had an ax to grind about Viet-Nam and Nixon. See the movie, and
remember how it starts - it blames Nixon for what existed for years.
Remember, he didn't become President until Jan 20, 1969.
My favorite scene is the landing up hill in the jungle. Air America pilots put planes in places the aircraft designers never thought possible. Their were plenty of funny stories that could have been shown. Instead, the Director chose to use the oversize rubber scene to show how dumb the CIA was. This scene shows that the Director and writer fell for some pilot bar talk and the joke is on them.
MDS Fort Valley Virginia.
Air America is an easy, fun, not hard to watch movie. I have seen it
many times and find it an easy no brain. I can watch the movie and do
other stuff at the same time and still catch the jokes and the plot. I
like Robert Downey Jnr always and this movie is no exception. He gels
really well with Mel Gibson. I am an actor and I would have loved to be
cast in this movie. Love the scene where Robert Downey Jnr is asleep,
hammered from the previous nights session on the booze when Mel Gibson
flying his helicopter hooks him up while still asleep on garden
furniture. Fab scene !
Give it a go. It now an old movie but a good one that seemed to have slipped through so many peoples viewing when it was released.
Great music !! I am a big fan of old soul and motown and this movie has some fab tunes.
What this movie on a crappy Wednesday night when there is nothing else on and not much to do and you will have a fun time.
I regard this as a classic war movie! It's fun, good acting, more fun, and factually correct, well up to a point of course! What I like about it, and what I feel makes it original, is that not many films were made about Laos, and also its a cheerful take on war, pretty original for that too I'd say. A good movie i could watch again and again. Excellent music too! 5/5 stars.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Easily one of my personal favourite "light-hearted action movies"...Air
America takes place in Laos, circa 1969, and follows the exploits of a
band of roughneck pilots working for the company of the film's title,
flying dangerous cargo drop missions in the unfriendly skies. Billy
(Robert Downey Jr) is recruited from his job as a traffic helicopter
pilot to join Air America. As he wants to be "down in the action, not
up above it" he takes the job and so meets Gene Ryack (Mel Gibson) the
unofficial head of the bunch, who is as he puts it an "adrenaline
While the historical accuracy and believability of the story is questionable, that's not why we watch these films, is it? This is a great action movie, with some REAL aerial stuntwork and no bluescreen or CGI, some great one liners, some awesome location photography and some decent humour:
"How often do you guys go on a bender like this?" "Oh, this is not a bender. This is just night-time!"
Roger Spottiswoode has made some remarkably good action films in his time, light, non-gory violence with some humanity and a decent storyline to boot. He did the wonderful "Turner and Hooch" a year before this, and a year before that did "Deadly Pursuit" (or "Shoot to Kill" i think it was called in the US), and later directed Arnie in "The 6th Day". I enjoy all those movies, find them tense, exciting and lots of fun as Friday-nite-popcorn-flicks.
Finally, two things that I admire about this film are the fact there is no cheesy love story thrown in just for the sake of having a love interest for one of the male leads. And the final message delivered in the films closing scenes when Gene ditches his (very lucrative) weapons cache in favour of taking on refugees fleeing a warzone. Great message. Great stuff.
I just watched this movie for the first time. I find it truly sad that this story was turned into a comedy, and not even recognizably a dark comedy like Catch-22 or M*A*S*H. The premise of the movie is true, and had it been a documentary, one would expect a certain amount of disbelief and horror to be expressed about its subject; this does not seem to be the case. I will watch this movie many more times in my life, so that I will never forget that governments ( of all countries ) really don't care about the people of the world, just about their own bottom line. The next time you watch this movie, please pay attention to the "were are they now" type section just before the closing credits, and see just how scary and prophetic it was ( the movie was made in 1989 for goodness sake ) and think about someone like Colonel Oliver North and his contribution to the American war effort.
It's like Lethal Weapon without Danny Glover. More comedic focus than the Lethal Weapons with less action, though there is still enough action to call it an action movie. Movie focuses on a Vietnam alliance with questionable military officials who are involved in opium smuggling, but never gets terribly deep into any of the real geopolitical issues of the war, choosing instead to paint everyone involved with the war in the same stereotypical light of corruption.
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