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Starring: Clint Eastwood, Freddie Jones, Warren Clarke, Nigel Hawthorne, Cliff from ‘Cheers’.
Box Notables: Extra thick 16oz. Warner clamshell.
Tagline: ‘The most devastating Soviet killing machine ever built… His job… Steal it!’
Trailers: That Dakota Feelin, Ironclad, The Sayonara Boys
Cherrypick: “Think in Russian, Goddamn you!”
Plagued by incomprehensible but rather sonorous ‘Nam flashbacks that result in temporary paralysis and pulling a face like he’s realised that he’s left the gas on, cashiered USAF pilot Mitchell Gant (Clint) is scratching out a living as an Alaskan rodeo clown when he comes down to his pre-breakfast Heineken one morning and finds a cryptic message written in toothpaste on the underside of his kitchen table. The Air Force brass has selected him for a secret mission to infiltrate the Soviet military and steal their new piece of top kit – the prototype ‘thought controlled’ MiG-31 Firefox jet fighter - “It’s a plan too unthinkable for the Russians to even contemplate!”
Manfully ignoring the story-so-far’s wholesale similarities to The Eiger Sanction, Clint submits himself to a refresher course in Russian, a painfully false moustache and a pre-recorded pep talk from the desiccating corpse of Senator Joseph McCarthy. Soon flawlessly disguised as Rudy Heffernan, a left-handed widget salesman from Kalamazoo, and high on outdated righter-than-right-wing bullshit, he’s aboard an Æroflot, drunk on gratis vodka, clumsily grabbing ass and belting out the theme from ‘Rawhide’ in a masterful essay of the average American businessman.
Upon arrival in Moscow (Pittsburgh), he is scooped up by the first of the film’s many slumming English character actors - professional Yorkshireman Warren Clarke’s dissident Jew, Pavel. Brooding like a Hassidic Heathcliff over the loss of his wife beneath the unblinking jackboot of the Evil Empire, Pavel is intent on selling Russia out by the rouble - and ‘ecky-thump to the consequences!
The route to the actual theft of the plane itself is similarly paved with the bodies of truant English sitcom stars playing disaffected Soviet scientists and military malcontents - watch closely and you’ll notice that at the crucial moment that Clint gingerly climbs into the Fox’s cockpit (Foxpit?), the guards are being distracted by Paul Eddington and Nigel Hawthorne re-enacting fondly remembered routines from 'Yes, Minister'. They are enthusiastically riddled with bullets for an encore.
Via special effects that borrow heavily from Namco arcade staple 'Afterburner', we sullenly learn that the approach vectors at six times the speed of sound make dogfights quite impossible. Factor in the dawning preposterousness of that ‘thought guided’ weapons system (‘Up a bit…. down a bit’) and the fact that nothing else in the Soviet military arsenal can see or catch the Fire’, and the tension drains away so quickly that one is in danger of experiencing what pilots call a ‘brown out’. The gummy fingers of flaccidity beckon.
|"Y'know, I think I did leave the gas on..."|
Now understood to be Oliver Stone’s favourite film, Firefox’s core audience at the time of release was American eighth grade high-schoolers, to whom it was screened bi-weekly as part of Ronald Reagan’s short lived ‘Arms Across America’ programme to re-invigorate teen interest the then flagging military-industrial complex. Also of note is the rumour that the film was originally shot as a comedy and featured Clyde the orang-utan (concurrently appearing with Eastwood in the Any Which Way… cycle) as Clint’s coconut crackin’ co-pilot. Such damaging industry gossip led ex-screen cowpoke Reagan (as a favour for Clint’s silence over ‘That Other Matter’) to order these portions of the films negative to be sealed under the fifty-year rule.
Wrong turn, Clyde.