Bullet Points: Iron Eagle
I will probably catch some heat from fellow action movie aficionados, but in the world of fighter jet action movies I prefer Iron Eagle over Top Gun any day of the week.
Iron Eagle is the story of Doug Masters (played by Jason Gedrick). A young man fresh out of high school with dreams of going into the Air Force Academy. When his father’s plane is shot down in the Middle East, Doug, along with the help of his friends and a veteran of the Vietnam war and current Air Force reservist, Colonel Chappy Sinclair (Louis Gossett Jr.), goes on a rescue mission to save his father, Colonel Ted Masters (Tim Thomerson) from the hostile (and fictional) country of Bilya.
If you read that plot synopsis and were unable to suspend your disbelief, please do yourself a favor and stop reading this review and never watch Iron Eagle. But if you are on board, let’s get to the Bullet Points…
- I Believe I Can Fly: It is quickly established that Doug Masters is into flying. Not only did he grow up around planes (remember his dad a pilot), Doug is a part of the Flying Eagles Club and he also wears a Cessna t-shirt! (Side note: I hope one day the Bulletproof Action Gift Shop has Cessna t-shirts available) Unfortunately for Doug his preoccupation with flying did his GPA no favors and he was denied entrance into the Air Force Academy.
- The Snake: Also quickly established is that the character Knotcher is a world class jerk. Not only does Knotcher and his cronies harass Doug’s girlfriend Katie (Melora Hardin). He also shames Doug into racing him after he reads Doug’s Air Force Academy rejection letter over the speaker at the local burger joint.
- Attempted Murder?: Knotcher orders one of his crew to tamper with Doug’s Cessna, shifting the odds of winning The Snake in Knotcher’s favor. I should let you know, flying The Snake is dangerous enough with a fully operational plane. Hell, it killed Jimmy Branson. You may be asking, “Who is Jimmy Branson?” And my reply to you is “Exactly!”. Jimmy Branson is dead and because of that we never got to have a movie about Jimmy and his dreams of flight. But back to my original thought… in today’s world, Knotcher would most certainly be brought up on criminal charges, but back in the 80’s the only comeuppance a guy like Knotcher needed was to lose the race and get punched in the face!
- Stereotypes Aplenty: With his dad rotting in some prison, Doug isn’t in the mood to go to prom with Katie. But his mom convinces him that his father would have wanted him to go. Doug decides it would be better than sitting at home alone, which has to make Katie feel special. The theme for this particular prom was apparently stereotypes. Doug’s black friend, Reggie (Larry B. Scott, who you may remember as Lamar from Revenge of the Nerds) and his equally black girlfriend show off their super impressive dance skills for the rest of the student body (who all happen to be white). If that’s not enough, Doug’s nerdy friend Milo shows up (he didn’t have a date you see) with news that Bilyad is not negotiating for the release of Doug’s dad and they are going to make an example out of him to show the whole world that they aren’t afraid of the U.S.A.
- Great Names in Cinematic History: Louis Gossett, Jr. may have received an Oscar for his role in An Officer and A Gentleman, but he received what I believe is one of the finest character names in movie history in Iron Eagle as Chappy Sinclair. Gossett would reprise the role three more times in the Iron Eagle sequels and have the distinction of being the only actor to appear in all four Iron Eagle movies.
- Minister of Defense: The main bad guy in the film is played by David Suchet. Now you are supposed to pronounce his last name as soo-shay, but feel free to pronounce it suck it! Suchet is best known for his role as detective Poirot, a show that was a staple on PBS for years. The mark of a great movie villain is that as you watch them, you hate them and you want them to reap what they sow. Well Col. Akir Nakesh is easy to hate. Well done Suck It!
- The Power of Music: Another thing Iron Eagle will teach you about the 80’s is music is a powerful weapon. You see it is the music that helps Doug Masters fly. When Chappy takes Doug up for some target practice and he tells him to turn the music off, Doug hits nothing. When he tells Chappy he needs to do it his way and turns the music on, he hits every single target with precision. Iron Eagle does benefit from having a pretty awesome soundtrack with songs from Queen, Dio, Spencer Davis Group, Dio and Twisted Sister. Music also assists Chappy in planning the rescue mission.. you see in the 80’s there was nothing music and/or a montage could not fix.
- Use The Force Doug: Now the Walkman that Doug always has with him when he flies becomes an essential plot piece in the film. When Chappy’s plane is shot down, he tells Doug to put in the tape he made for him. In a scene reminiscent to Obi-Wan helping Luke blow up the Death Star, Chappy’s voice on the tape guides Doug through the rest of the mission. Great forward thinking by the Chappy Sinclair character, but Louis Gossett, Jr. is missing the boat on not recording some motivational MP3’s for children of the 80’s to put on their iPods to help them get through their days. Maybe this is another item we can eventually offer in the Bulletproof Action Gift Shop.
Iron Eagle is a fun movie that doesn’t try to be more than it is and it sticks with the basics. Good guys you can get behind. Bad guys you want to die. Underdogs overcoming insurmountable odds. What’s not to love about that?
But if you need one more reason to watch the film…
- The Impression That I Get: Jason Gedrick does a fantastic impression of Chappy’s friend Slappy (played by Chino “Fats” Williams). If I ever meet Jason Gedrick or if he ever gets on Twitter, raving about his Chino impression will likely be my first order of business.