The Bottom Line: a shame they made light of drug running, gun running and the atrocities of Viet Nam
Im sure these dirty little secrets really took place and probably take place to this day. The black market is a real commodity folks and that stuff has to get there somehow. Enter the heroes of our story, Gene Ryack (Mel Gibson), Billy Covington (Robert Downey, Jr.), and Rob Diehl (David Marshall Grant). A coupla flyboys and their boss, out for a little extra coin
Now Gibson is old hat in the jungles of Laos, hes been around for a while. A purported gun-runner, instead he has little caches of guns hidden all over the jungle as insurance for the day he decides to get out of this business and return stateside.
Downey is a rebellious weather reporter that just loves to dive bomb his helicopter. This results in the loss of his license, but the lucrative offer from Grant convinces him to head to the jungles of Laos and begin his own deal, since it includes the offer of a reinstatement of his license. Naturally the transportation of opium for the commander of the Laotian forces never comes up in the outline of his deal, but in fact it does exist.
Gibson and Downey, two sides of a coin. Both hotshots and headstrong. Gibson a little disillusioned after all this time, Downey a little amazed that this secret society even exists. You just know that things will not go right, these planes are relics held together with duct tape and prayers. And since we have already been given the impossible view, in the opening credits, of a CIA plane being shot from the skies by one bullet from some old beat up gun in the hands of a peasant, you can figure we are going to have another one of those crashes as well.
If the premise of the movie were not so damnably serious, you could almost consider the interaction between the players as bordering on slapstick at times. Gibson, even though he tries most of the time, cannot avoid that humor that bubbles under his surface. No matter what movie he is in, you can see the general good humor underlying his persona. I know he has had serious roles and yes, he has done them well, but just look at that face. Dont ya wanna pinch his cheeks? (HEY! I meant face cheeks)
Downey begins his role as serious as he can, but with the background information (watching him dive bomb that helicopter over L.A.), you find it hard to accept the fact that he is stricken with conscience about smuggling dope to American soldiers and Laotian superlords. Besides, just too many unbelievable coincidences start happening, you end up being through with the entire thing!
In the end we are stuck with ner-do-wells pretending to have a conscience. It left me flat. Although there was Nancy Travis for a tempting little treat for the eyes. Was this movie the prototype for Gibsons Conspiracy Theory?
The music makes the movie rate at least two stars with the wonderful works of : Aerosmith (Love Me Two Times), B.B. King (Right Place, Wrong Time), Charlie Sexton (Long Cool Woman), Steely Dan (Do It Again and Free Ride), Mamas & The Papas (California Dreamin), Four Tops (Baby I Need Your Loving), Temptations (Get Ready), Fontella Bass (Rescue Me), and The Seeds (Pushin Too Hard). Also credited for lyrics: Dan Hartman, The Doors, Bonnie Raitt, Eddie Holland, John Fogerty, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Quite a musical line-up but that was typical of movies made reflecting that Viet Nam era.
Id like to recommend this movie, but just can bring my heart to do it. A sad-assed reflection on the times we suffered through and prettying them up with shiny paper.
Directed by Roger Spottiswoode, written by Christopher Robbins