Thursday 29 October 2020

Movie Review: Bird On A Wire (1990)

A comedy thriller, Bird On A Wire features plenty of madcap action and good laughs, with star charisma just about rescuing an exceptionally flimsy plot.

Rick Jarmin (Mel Gibson) has been living in hiding for 15 years as part of the FBI's witness protection program, after he testified against corrupt Drug Enforcement Agency agents Sorenson (David Carradine) and Diggs (Bill Duke). Now working at a Detroit gas station, Rick is spotted by lawyer Marianne Graves (Goldie Hawn), the woman he loved but had to suddenly abandon 15 years prior.

At the same time corrupt FBI agent Weyburn (Stephen Tobolowsky) teams up with Sorenson and Diggs to find and terminate Rick. He is forced to go on the run, taking Marianne with him as they scamper across the country evading killers and trying to contact the only FBI agent Rick trusts.

Boasting a script likely written on the back of a greasy napkin, Bird On A Wire never takes itself too seriously. This is a loud, brash and polished star vehicle for Mel Gibson and Goldie Hawn to bounce around the landscape and actively find trouble around every corner, while actively hatching excuses to appear shirtless, pantless and in lingerie.

Director John Badham amplifies every chase scene (and there is one every 10 minutes) to encompass over-the-top derring-dos, crashes and explosions, thus necessitating that the bad guys suffer a severe case of bad marksmanship. Rick does get shot in the rear-end early (setting up laudable Gibson and Hawn equal opportunity bum reveals), but otherwise Sorenson and Diggs receive a pathetic return on a huge investment in automatic weaponry and ammunition.

Badham's pacing is near-manic, constant motion and scenic locations (all filmed in British Columbia) forging a robust strategy to blast past the non-existent plot. The repartee and chemistry between Gibson and Hawn are adequate but lean more towards humour and away from sizzle. The trio of bad guys suffer most, provided with barely any dialogue and not even rising to the status of cartoon villains.

Bird On A Wire has no serious intentions, but flaps vigorously and looks good doing it.

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