Air America (1990) Directed by Roger Spottiswoode. With Mel Gibson, Robert Downey Jr., Lane Smith and Nancy Travis.
Adapted from a book by Christopher Robbins, Air America is a light-hearted action-comedy set during the Vietnam war starring Mel Gibson and Robert Downey Jr as pilots recruited by the CIA, dropping supplies to the villagers of Laos.
Directed by Roger Spottiswoode (a veteran of middling action-comedies), the film is breezy, yet wholly insubstantial. A forgettable Friday-night-rental with attractive leads and exotic locations – helped along by a toe-tapping soundtrack featuring a host of hits from the Rolling Stones to Frank Sinatra. It aims to conjure some of the brio of Good Morning Vietnam, but fails to take-off beyond the appeal of the aerial photography (Roger Deakins no less) and the winsome pull of its two leading men.
Centrally, there is a muddled plot device about corruption and political backhanders, but its hard to tune-in to its frequency amid a feeling of its token existence as something to ‘boo-hiss’. The political characters in the film are straight out of a comic book. The best example is Lane Smith’s Senator Davenport – a bumbling cartoon character, complete with a goofy look that’s only a hairs breadth away from yelling “Doh!”.
With Gibson in his prime and a puppy-dog Downey Jr snapping at his heels, Air America is a two-pronged charm offensive, designed to get by on star power. Some of the time it does, but with a plot that never switches out of auto-pilot there’s only so far that playful banter can take you. 2.5/5