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"Iron Eagle" review: Sidney Furie's Reagan era turkey fails to fly high

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“Iron Eagle” (1986)

Directed by: Sidney Furie

Written by Sidney Furie and Kevin Elders

Starring: Jason Gedrick, Louis Gossett Jr, Tim Thomerson, David Suchet

Doug Masters: [seeing an armored truck heading right for them] Oh no! Dad, will the Maverick fire if we're still on the ground?

Col. Ted Masters: I don't know, never tried it before, why?

Doug Masters: Because something's about to have us for breakfast!

Canadian writer-director Sidney J. Furie (“Superman IV: The Quest for Peace”) and co-writer Kevin Elders jumped on the jingoistic bandwagon of the Reagan Era with 1986’s “Iron Eagle,” a ridiculously unrealistic tale of a civilian teenager who leads a rescue mission when his Air Force pilot dad is shot down and held captive by a rogue Arab state.

Jason Gedrick (“Backdraft”) plays Doug Masters, a high school senior and skilled civilian pilot. He wants to follow the footsteps of his father, Col. Ted Masters (Tim Thomerson) and become a fighter pilot.

As good as he is in a Cessna, however, Doug isn’t intellectually prepared for acceptance in the Air Force Academy. Crushed by this rejection, Doug mopes until Col. Masters is downed over the Mediterranean and held captive by one of those nameless Arab states that exist only in a screenwriter’s imagination.

When the nameless country’s leadership announces that their prisoner will be executed as an example of what happens to “imperialist Yankees” in the Middle East, the U.S. government declines to use armed force in retaliation and opts to negotiate through diplomatic channels. Knowing that his dad will surely die if no one intervenes, Doug recruits Air Force Reserve Col. “Chappy” Sinclair (Louis Gossett, Jr.) to plan and carry out a daring – and hopelessly implausible – rescue mission.

[watching Doug buzzing the motorcycle rider]

Reggie: Why don't you just land on the fool and get it over with?

Doug Masters: What's the matter, don't you feel like flying today?

Reggie: Oh, flying yes, dying, no.

My Take: Originally scheduled for a Summer of ’86 release, Columbia-TriStar’s “Iron Eagle” was rushed to theaters in January of that year to avoid competing with Paramount’s superior but equally fanciful “Top Gun.” I saw it during its run on the big screen and even mentioned it in my college English composition journal – “a typical ‘rah-rah’ bit of Reagan era Hollywood silliness,” I wrote back then.

Nearly 30 years later, my opinion of Furie’s film remains unchanged. Even though some of the aerial photography is good, “Iron Eagle” is one of the most implausible military-themed “wet dreams” ever made. Furie and Elders want us to believe that a high school kid and a motley crew of accomplices can, among many things, steal not one but two F-16 fighter-bombers, defeat a small country’s air force and blow half of the enemy nation into next week.

For viewers who have a passion for cheesy ‘80s action flicks, “Iron Eagle” is worth at least a cheap rental. For everyone else, Furie’s flick is, at best, watchable if it shows up on a basic cable channel.

The DVD: “Iron Eagle” was released on DVD in the fall of 2002.by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. As with many second-tier movie DVDs produced in the early years of the format, “Iron Eagle” has not been re-issued in Collector’s Edition sets. It seems to be out of print; the only brand-new copy available on Amazon costs $50.93 and is sold by a third-party seller.

Considering that the DVD presents a pan-and-scan (full-screen) edition of “Iron Eagle” with no extra features, it’s better if the movie’s fans look for cheaper copies of it on eBay.

Per Amazon’s product listing, no Blu-ray edition of “Iron Eagle” exists.

DVD Specifications

  • Format: Full Screen, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, Subtitled, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround), English (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Unknown)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Thai
  • Dubbed: Spanish
  • Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: October 1, 2002
  • Run Time: 117 minutes
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