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Slipstream Reviews

Sometime and somewhere in a desolate future made bleak by man's abuse of the environment, a fugitive, Byron (Bob Peck), is apprehended by Tasker (Mark Hamill), a gung-ho cop, and his partner, Belitski (Kitty Aldridge). When Matt (Bill Paxton), a roving jack-of-all-trades, learns that there's a price on the wanted man's head, he tricks the police and spirits the prisoner away in his rickety plane. Before Matt makes his getaway, Tasker shoots him with a poison dart tracking device, then Matt flies into the dangerous slipstream (an area blasted by harsh winds that are treated as gods by superstitious locals). While Tasker is busy playing Dirty Harry and eliminating some of Matt's smuggler pals, Matt literally lands in trouble and is tied up by members of a battle-scarred religious cult, who mistrust Byron because he has demonstrated healing powers. The cultists attach Byron to a giant wind-borne kite to determine whether he's a friendly spirit. When Tasker and Belitski encounter the trussed-up Matt, they free him only after he agrees to help them retrieve the up-in-the-clouds Byron. Mistrusting Matt's intentions as he sails upwards, Belitski likewise flies heavenward; as Matt tries to free Byron (who we learn is actually an android), Belitski tries to circumvent the double-cross, but the violent wind nearly tosses all three into oblivion, and Tasker is nearly crushed by debris from the oversized kite. After the selfless Byron manages to rescue everyone, a visiting cave-dweller (Eleanor David) who's not a member of the wind religion insists that Matt and Byron accompany her to her homeland, where Matt can obtain an antidote for the poison now coursing through his veins, as well as supplies. Leaving Belitski behind to look for Tasker, the three journey to an elitist settlement dedicated to sensual pleasure and high culture. While the android explores humankind with his hostess, Matt beds down with a beautiful blonde. After a swinging party (during which Byron entertains with a Fred Astaire impression), Tasker and his partner arrive and shoot their way in, demanding the return of Byron. (Belitski eventually provides Matt with an antidote, but she remains loyal to Tasker for the time being.) During a gun battle, Matt is wounded and Byron's girl friend is killed. Although Matt has revealed to the android that he now considers him a friend and couldn't betray him, Tasker has no compunction about turning Byron over to the authorities and collecting the reward. Crazed by the death of his lover and the end of his plans to improve life in the utopian society, Byron jumps onto Tasker's plane after Tasker tries to run him down with it. Tearing the motor apart, the android succeeds in crashing the plane into a mountain and Tasker is killed--leaving Matt free to pair up with Belitski, and Byron free to pursue his dream of locating the land of the androids. If you can cut through all the mystical mumbo-jumbo about wind-worship and if you can stifle a yawn over the too-familiar post-apocalyptic setting, you may enjoy this mildly diverting action flick. Playing like a western set on the lawless frontier of an environmentally damaged future-world, SLIPSTREAM unfolds its derivative plotline with some ingenuity. The problem is that the metaphysics and philosophizing keep slowing the action down. And one sometimes grows tired of the saintly android turning the other cheek while gazing soulfully past the camera with his other-worldly baby blues. Trying for something different, the movie should have integrated its pseudo-religious gobbledygook more smoothly into the rough-and-tumble adventure or cut back sharply on the pontificating. It is surprising that SLIPSTREAM's producers were able to persuade Ben Kingsley and F. Murray Abraham to accept thankless roles in what is basically a Saturday matinee feature gussied up with variations on the theme of man's inhumanity to man and robot. Sloppy camerawork and jagged editing mar several sequences, including the one in which Peck performs the Fred Astaire number. Hamill is convincingly cast against type as a police-state villain, and Paxton makes a ruggedly attractive self-mocking hero. As the angelic android, Peck has an unusual presence and makes some of the gooey religiosity palatable. SLIPSTREAM is an offbeat adventure, somewhat awkward in its transitions from scene to scene, but just intriguing enough to hold the attention of jaded action fans. (Violence, profanity, sexual situations, nudity, substance abuse.)