Film Review: Bird On a Wire (1990)

Release Date: May 18th, 1990
Directed by: John Badham
Written by: Louis Venosta, David Seltzer
Music by: Hans Zimmer
Cast: Mel Gibson, Goldie Hawn, David Carradine, Bill Duke, Joan Severance, Stephen Tobolowsky

Interscope Communications, The Badham/Cohen Group, Universal Pictures, 110 Minutes

Review:

“You come to Detroit and you rent a Beamer? That’s like going to Germany and eating Jimmy Dean sausages!” – Rick Jarmin

I hadn’t seen this in a decade or so but I forgot how enjoyable this was until I revisited it.

I mean, it has Mel Gibson during the height of his career, coming off of the first two Lethal Weapon movies and the Mad Max trilogy. It also has Goldie Hawn who was the quintessential ’80s comedy damsel in distress archetype. You also have them being hunted by David Carradine and Bill Duke, alongside Stephen Tobolowsky, who I will always just see as Stu from Californication. I also can’t forget the small part Joan Severance has in this as a total badass.

Mel Gibson plays Rick but he has a bunch of different names because he has been bouncing around for fifteen years, as he’s under witness protection after sending David Carradine’s drug smuggling character to prison. Carradine gets out, re-teams with his old partner, played by Bill Duke, and they set out to finally take out Rick, the one man that can stop them from going back to their old ways. Rick runs into his ex-fiance Marianne, played by Hawn, and this exposes him to the bad guys. Rick and Marianne then spend the movie on the run from Carradine and Duke, as they are forced to revisit several people from Rick’s witness protection past.

The plot is pretty good, fairly believable and a nice unique narrative twist that calls back to classic noir. Although, this is not a film-noir in any way, really. It’s an ’80s style action movie with a lot of laughs.

The coolest thing about the entire film is the final showdown, which happens at an indoor zoo exhibit that features tigers, alligators, monkeys and other dangerous creatures ready to make lunch out of anyone that finds themselves in their path. I absolutely love the finale of this film and while it has a hokiness to it, it is just a badass and incredibly well shot spectacle. The sequence of Marianne running from the tigers is better choreographed than one would expect from a simple action comedy from 1990.

The other thing that makes this work so well is that Gibson and Hawn have incredible chemistry and are believable as ex-lovers that fell away from one another, only to reconnect and find the spark is still burning strong.

Bird On a Wire is a better movie than it deserves to be, honestly. That’s not a knock against the filmmakers or actors, it’s just that films like these aren’t typically this good.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: Lethal Weapon 2Air America, See No Evil, Hear No EvilWildcats and Overboard

Film Review: The Sidehackers (1969)

Also known as: Five the Hard Way
Release Date: May 1969
Directed by: Gus Trikonis
Written by: Larry Billman, Tony Huston
Music by: Mike Curb, Guy Hemric, Jerry Styner
Cast: Ross Hagen, Diane McBain, Michael Pataki, Goldie Hawn (uncredited)

Crown International Pictures, 82 Minutes

Review:

This may be one of the worst movies I have ever seen but it still isn’t as putrid and shitty as Manos: The Hands of Fate. It is pretty damn close though and when run through the Cinespiria Shitometer, it comes out as a Type 6 stool, which is defined as “Fluffy pieces with ragged edges, a mushy stool.” But like Manos and other Shitometer worthy films I have come in contact with, this one was introduced to me by Mystery Science Theater 3000.

In all fairness, as bad as this film is, it makes up one of the greatest MST3K episodes of all-time. It featured ESPN like commentary during the motorcycle races and even had scoreboard graphics pop up on the screen. The episode featured some good gags but the biggest gag, unfortunately, is that we, the audience, had to sit through this golden goose of mongoose poop.

The movie is kind of cool when it shows what “sidehacking” actually is. I had no idea what it was but apparently it was a sort of motorcycle race where the bikes have a sort of cage attached to their side where guys do tricks for the spectators. I mean, I think that’s what it is, it really isn’t clear. It’s a bizarre sport that seems to only exist in this movie but I wasn’t alive in the 1960s and didn’t spend much time around the counterculture motorcycle crews of the time.

Here are some things that go without saying – the film is poorly shot, poorly edited, has bad sound, bad acting, bad direction and a bad script. The “sidehacking” is the only highlight and really, it isn’t that exciting.

The story sees a bad ass sidehacker get caught up with an evil criminal biker. The evil biker’s girlfriend says that the sidehacker dude raped her after he turned her down for sex. You see, the sidehacker dude loves his lady and they spend a lot of time in this film rolling around in grass and giggling: real cutesy stuff. Evil biker then murders sidehacker dude’s girlfriend. Sidehacker dude decides to become the Punisher but he’s really bad at it. In the end, they duke it out in a final crescendo of boredom. Spoiler alert: sidehacker dude bests evil biker in fisticuffs but as he is walking away, is shot from behind. Sidehacker dude falls dead as the image of him and his girlfriend rolling in grass is superimposed over his dead body. The end.

I don’t hate this movie but it really is total shit. It also features a young Goldie Hawn in an uncredited role as a spectator. It’s good to see that this helped launch her storied career.