(First posted to Bad Movie Night in 2001 or so.)
MAD Magazine once quipped that Clint Eastwood has but one facial expression. You know the one. The Eastwood Scowl, the grimace which tells you that "Go ahead, make my day" is really a plea for laxatives. Well, not contented to merely snarl at street punks and Wild West banditos with that leather mug, in this movie Eastwood (who also directs) takes his constipation problems out on ... Russians.
You young whippersnappers out there probably don't remember this thing we Old Fogeys called "the cold war". With Russia's current economic status only slightly ahead of Ethiopia's, it's inconceivable that we would have ever viewed this country as a major world superpower and a threat to global freedom. But back in my day, the Soviet Union (as we called the Russians then) represented Evil Incarnate™. It was our moral and patriotic duty to make movies that portrayed those Russky bastards as scheming, sadistic bureaucrats, fully deserving of having Clint Eastwood thrown at them.
In this film, Eastwood is a hotshot fighter pilot who keeps having Vietnam flashbacks. Having taken a correspondence course in Russian, he is therefore the perfect choice for a super secret spy mission: sneaking into a Russian airbase and stealing a new experimental Russian fighter jet. This new whiz-bang jet is named the MiG-31 Firefox, and while 1982 saw the Russians produce a real fighter named the MiG-31 that looked nothing like the Firefox in the film, I can't really hold that against a movie that came out earlier in the same year.
I CAN, however, hold the ridiculous capabilities of this fighter plane against this movie. The MiG-31 Firefox has Stealth technology years before the Americans produced it, is capable of flying at Mach Six, and uses a thought-controlled weapons system. A thought-controlled weapons system that requires its operator to think in Russian, not merely think in English and then translate into Russian in his head. God knows how the mind-reading electronics can tell the difference. And this technology is supposed to be coming out of SOVIET RUSSIA, who never even figured out how to mass-produce the Transistor?!
For a two-hour "action" movie, an hour-and-a-half of it consists of Eastwood sneaking around in Russia, Russians beating up suspected American spies, Russians beating up other Russians, Russians machine gunning other Russians, Russians scrutinizing Clint's papers to see if they're in order — in other words, 90 minutes designed entirely to make the audience hate Russians. Some of it went really over-the-top, such as the Russian counterespionage agent machine-gunning the genius engineer who built the Firefox because, hey, Eastwood got away and the agent wanted to kill SOMEbody. I can imagine Clint sitting in the director's chair, his bowels acting up more than usual that day, screaming for somebody to die on film. But then, finally, after all this sneaking around is over, we at last get to see what most of us came into the theater for: neato John "Star Wars" Dykstra special effects of the MiG-31 Firefox flying around and fighting other planes. Wow! It looked almost like an X-Wing fighter skimming the surface of the Death Star!
Oh, and I forgot to mention that there were TWO prototype Firefoxes, so naturally our hero has to dogfight another plane as good as the one he's stolen at the movie's climax. Distracted by this new menace, Clint's constipation gets so bad he even forgets to think in Russian for a few seconds. But of course, despite being far less familiar with this plane than the test-pilot attacking him, Eastwood finally wins the day. After all, he can fly it. He's the best there is. He directed this wonderful (retch) movie, after all, didn't he?
Movies like Firefox, Rambo, and Red Dawn did more to prolong the Cold War than the nuclear arsenals of all the NATO and Warsaw Pact nations put together. Sadly, this movie even went on to have one of those laserdisc coin-operated video arcade games based on it. When we live in a world that gives us a "Firefox" video game but can't deliver on its promise of a "Last Starfighter" video game, I pity the future our descendants will inherit.
Click here to go to Roger M. Wilcox's home page.
Send comments regarding this Web page to: Roger M. Wilcox.