Originally titled Wings of the Apache for the Apache assault helicopters prominently featured, Fire Birds resembles a morale booster project leftover from The Reagan era. A paean to Yankee air power, it shows the US Army as a take-charge outfit able to kick the butt of those South American drug cartel jerks.
Not surprisingly, given changing times and politics, Fire Birds has a tongue-in-cheek aspect. Camaraderie and rat-a-tat-tat dialog may have started out as fun a la Howard Hawks’ classic Only Angels Have Wings but emerges at times as a satire of the genre.
Formula script, which inevitably recalls Top Gun, has Nicolas Cage training to use the army’s Apache aircraft while vainly trying to rekindle a romance with old flame Sean Young. Tommy Lee Jones is dead-on as the taskmaster instructor who cornily singles out Cage for rough treatment. Film’s main novelty is having Young also sent into combat instead of being the woman sitting on the sidelines.