AIR AMERICA comes on like a noisy, overproduced sitcom pilot as it details the zany exploits of kooky flyboys ferrying contraband in Laos during the Vietnam War, circa 1969. Though attempting to mimic the dark, satirical tone of Robert Altman's M*A*S*H, director Roger Spottiswoode's most
recent effort remains on an inoffensive cartoon level, building to a mock socially conscious telemovie windup.
Under the opening credits, a CIA plane is brought down by a single bullet fired by a Laotian peasant. We then glimpse veteran pilot Gene Ryack (Mel Gibson), photogenically knitting his brow over the carnage, and his Air America boss, Rob Diehl (David Marshall Grant), who now has to find more
pilots. Without further mention of the opening air crash, seemingly staged solely to give superstar Gibson a fitting introduction, the film abruptly cuts to Los Angeles, where we're introduced to Billy Covington (Robert Downey, Jr.), who reports on traffic conditions from a helicopter. Recruited
by Diehl, Billy is promised exotic adventure in Laos, along with a new flying license out of Taiwan. When Billy arrives at the Air America base, Ryack takes him under his wing and involves him in a series of capers and scams.
AIR AMERICA breezes along episodically, cutting away from Billy and Ryack to the day-to-day lives of the other fliers, and depicting drunken binges and sessions with B-girls at the flyboys' favorite hangout, Vientiane's White Rose bar; attempts by Air America to recruit civilian pilots for
psychological warfare against the Viet Cong forces who are using a pathway through Laos to transport men, arms, and supplies to South Vietnam; and the efforts of the Air America bosses to cover up their involvement in drug smuggling. Despite occasional stabs at relevance, AIR AMERICA is careful
not to push too hard or delve too deeply into any of the implications, political or moral, of its plot.
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- Released: 1990
- Rating: R
- Review: AIR AMERICA comes on like a noisy, overproduced sitcom pilot as it details the zany exploits of kooky flyboys ferrying contraband in Laos during the Vietnam War, circa 1969. Though attempting to mimic the dark, satirical tone of Robert Altman's M*A*S*H, di… (more)