Monday, November 1, 2010
"Firefox:" The Wrong Stuff
Genre: Spy "thriller"
Notable for: Special effects
Coolest thing Clint does: Kills a KGB agent in a men's room
We have now reached the point in Clint's career where it is no longer safe to expect each movie to bring the manly joy of grunting, squinting and cold-blooded volleys of gunfire.
He's begun to "spread his wings" and "test his boundaries" and otherwise reject his own stereotype.
Sometimes we don't care to watch.
"Firefox" nearly put us to sleep, even though everything about the movie sounds like it should be good.
"Hey! Let's put Clint in a tense spy story!" some cigar-smoking producer probably said. "The audience will eat it up like Nathan's hot dogs on a Coney Island Fourth of July!"
"Killer stuff," some coke-snorting screenwriter probably said. "But let's go one better by making it a spy story full of amazing special effects. This is 1982, man. You're dead without special effects."
Good as it all sounds, the end result is mostly boring. The essence of Clint is missing, and he is not funny or quirky to compensate for the loss.
Clint plays a hotshot pilot traumatized by his experiences in Vietnam. He is so mentally fragile he occasionally melts into a quivering pile of wimp.
Despite his mental instability and complete lack of spy training, Clint is selected for dangerous and daring mission inside the Soviet Union. He must break into a top-secret Soviet research facility and steal a highly advanced jet fighter.
The plane, called Firefox, is so sophisticated it runs off a pilot's thought waves. "If the Soviets can mass-produce it, it will change the structure of the world," Clint is told. So you know that's important.
Why pick a basket case like Clint for the job? Two reasons. One, he is such a great pilot everyone he assumes he can fly a plane that works on thought waves. Two, he speaks fluent Russian. Da!
For most of the movie, Clint is undercover sneaking into and around the Soviet Union. The commies are always close to catching him, and Clint leaves a trail of dead helpers in the underground resistance. We think the script also contained some sort of message about the courage of Jews, but we were too uninterested to grasp it.
Once Clint steals the plane amid a fiery diversion, "Firefox" turns to extended scenes of aerial combat.
The movie was made about halfway between "Star Wars" and "Top Gun," and the special effects show it. The problem with wowing audiences with the best special effects of 1982 is what happens by 2010. We are no longer impressed. The console of the high-tech jet fighter looks like a video game before graphics cards were invented.
Reliance on special effects is not the only thing "Firefox" borrows from "Star Wars." In one scene, Clint struggles with the thought-controlled plane until his mind replays the words he was taught in training, "You must think in Russian." It sounded suspiciously like, "Use the force, Luke."
Suffice to say, we were glad when the movie ended with Clint flying home in his stolen Soviet fighter.
Did we learn anything from this experience? Yes. We learned even Clint Eastwood can screw up agreeing with guys who smoke cigars and snort coke.
Next up: "Honkytonk Man."