A decade earlier, ‘D.B. Cooper’ – whoever he really was – did indeed excite the nation by taking over a jet with a fake bomb, demanding $200,000 and then parachuting out the back door, never to be seen again. That tale could still make an exciting picture.
Unfortunately, director Roger Spottiswoode and writer Jeffrey Alan Fiskin [adapting the book Free Fall by J.D. Reed] choose to invent a totally specious yarn that begins with Treat Williams leaping from the plane. Apparently, he landed in an episode of The Dukes of Hazzard, complete with banjos and Waylon Jennings in the background.
The airline’s insurance agent (Robert Duvall) just happens to be Williams’ former Green Beret instructor and naturally suspects who the culprit is. Paul Gleason is also a fellow Green Beret, now wearing a black hat, who also suspects who got the money.
Duvall and Gleason venture upon separate pursuits while Williams drops by the homestead to gather up his suffering wife (Kathryn Harrold) to go escaping with him. The resulting endless chases have the cinematic value of a laundry dryer.
Begun by director John Frankenheimer, continued by director Buzz Kulik and finally finished by Spottiswoode, Cooper must have once had something that attracted such normally fine performers as Duvall, Williams and Harrold.