BAT 21 represents the flip side of Rambo. The true story of an officer forced to parachute into enemy-infested jungle during the Vietnam War and survive on his own until a rescue can be attempted, this is a straightforward, surprisingly somber picture [from William C. Anderson’s book] that sticks to the facts.
Produced independently on location in Sabahn, Borneo, with the cooperation of the Malaysian military, this $10 million venture recounts the exceptional efforts of a reconnaisance flyer nicknamed Bird-Dog (Danny Glover) to keep tabs on the downed missile intelligence expert, Lt Col Iceal Hambleton (Gene Hackman) who has never before seen actual combat or come face-to-face with the enemy. Only Glover’s personal initiative and daring gives Hackman any chance of escaping before the jungle is napalmed to smithereens. Several times, he comes within inches of being spotted by VC patrols.
Weight of the picture falls on Glover, who does most of the talking during their radio communications, squares off on occasion with his superior, nicely etched by Jerry Reed (also exec producer) and enjoys the benefit of being at the joystick for the snazzy flying scenes. Glover turns in a solid job but, as with Hackman, he remains one-dimensional.
Peter Markle’s direction is dramatically sound and visually crisp, and Christopher Young’s score is a plus.