You know the montages that they play of famous actors when they appear on talk shows? The ones where they handpick the signature lines and snippets from the biggest grossing or award winning movies before the host turns to camera and says “Ladies and gentlemen, Luke Perry!” to deafening applause?
Well it’s fair to say that regardless of what you may think of the man himself, Nicolas Cage would have the most interesting montage going around. Of course not all for the same reasons as say Daniel Day Lewis or Jack Nicholson.
Well I can perhaps save you some time googling ‘Nicolas Cage montage’ by directing you to an obscure hardly remembered late 80s Top Gun in helicopters (‘Chop Gun’?) ripoff called Firebirds. Dunno how the search for the DVD and the 90 minute runtime actually saves you anything but then again I’m a crappy movie reviewer not a life coach. Make your own decisions for once in your damn life. But in Firebirds, you get the whole package: the dour bland Cage, the googly eyed over-serious lunatic, the over confident loud mouthed jock, even the creepy lecherous horndog. It’s all here in one unnecessary and mediocre package.
It is the cusp of the 90s, and President George Bush (the other one) has declared war on drugs – again – and has proffered up US resources to help fund the battle. One primary ingredient is the use of Apache helicopters and their crack crews to provide air support. All the more important with some ace Russian chopper pilot working as a gun for hire for the cartels.
With the mission but days (or months, never specified) away, all applicants must first sit through a lengthy and exhaustive training session to prove themselves worthy.
Preston (Cage) is one such aspirant. Little (Tommy Lee Jones) his gruff trainer and superior. We get all the training clichés; the tough love, the one critical failing that may derail the hotshot, even the awkward ‘father figure or hard-ass’? conundrum. Alongside all this Cage must do some of the hardest acting of his career, pretending Sean Young is a hot piece of tail worth risking it all for…
In reality most of this is the 75% Cage, the one not worthy of cutting into a Youtube clip. Or even watching. But a few scenes demand the 100% Cage, most notably the one in a flight simulator that looks about as cutting edge and high tech as you would expect an 80s computer game to be, with Cage gesticulating and babbling like a mad-man as he blows away pretend clumsily pixelated enemies. THIS is the Cage that make it worth watching crap like The Wicker Man remake for, for all the wrongest reasons.
Aside from that though there is precious little else to recommend about Firebirds. Only TLJ seems to put a skerrick of effort into seeming like he is actually in the Air Force. Even he isn’t helped by the wooden dialogue and forced bravado. By the time the ‘big mission’ comes up it seems that the testosterone reserves are exhausted. We’ve already seen the best film this has to offer – which isn’t saying much anyway.
And when the SECOND Phil Collins tune kicks in as the triumphant choppers head into the sunset, we know… that we’ve wasted another two hours of our lives.
Final Rating – 6 / 10. Because there are so many modern day ‘meh’ movies, why not switch things up and watch one old enough to drink? Hell I bet even this film would drink along with you if it knew just how middling it turned out…