Spectacular action sequences and engaging perfs by Mel Gibson and Robert Downey Jr make this big-budgeter entertaining and provocative.

Spectacular action sequences and engaging perfs by Mel Gibson and Robert Downey Jr make this big-budgeter entertaining and provocative.

It’s probably news to most even at this late date that the CIA, through its proprietary Air America, was using drug money to finance the war in Southeast Asia and condoning the refining and exportation of heroin both to GIs in that part of the world and to the American public. Air America became known as a dope airline , as Christopher Robbins’ 1979 source book puts it, and the filmmakers don’t shrink from showing Gibson knowingly flying opium and cynically justifying it as essential to the US war effort.

Starting off as a reckless radio station helicopter pilot in a wild stunt sequence on an LA freeway in 1969, Downey is recruited by the CIA to perform his hair-raising flying feats for Uncle Sam in Laos, where oxymoronic military intelligence officer David Marshall Grant insists, ‘We re not actually here.’

With his reported $35 million budget and a vast army of tech assistants to help carry out the stunt flying and crashes on the atmospheric Thailand locations, director Roger Spottiswoode does an efficient job in marshaling his forces and walking the thin line required to keep a black comedy from becoming gruesome or flippant.

Air America

Production

Carolco. Director Roger Spottiswoode; Producer Daniel Melnick; Writer John Eskow, Richard Rush; Camera Roger Deakins Editor John Bloom, Lois Freeman-Fox; Music Charles Gross Art Allan Cameron

Crew

(Color) Widescreen. Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1990. Running time: 112 MIN.

With

Mel Gibson Robert Downey Jr Nancy Travis Ken Jenkins David Marshall Grant Lane Smith
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