Sunday, 18 May 2008

Black Thunder (1998)


You'd have to pretty desperate for ideas to start plundering the plots of Michael Dudikoff films, but that's exactly what they did for Steven Seagal's 2007 Direct-to-Video shitfest Flight of Fury. It was essentially a remake of this film, so I thought I'd give it a look and see how the Seagal film stacks up to the original.

The film follows the same plot of the stolen next-generation stealth fighter with the same ridiculous invisibility cloaking device. After piloting the experimental aircraft during a test flight, Colonel Nick Moore (John Furey), his girlfriend and her silicone implants are perforated by his exact double. I've always been a sucker for these type of stories (I was hoping it was a long lost twin brother or something) but it turns out to be fellow pilot Ratcher (Richard "Gymkata" Norton) in a latex mask, who had faked his death in a test flight the previous day. He poses as Moore and, like his character in Flight of Fury, steals the plane and flies to a terrorist camp in Libya where the evil Stone (Robert Madrid) plans to drop biological weapons on Paris and Kansas(?)

General Barnes (Michael Cavanagh) recruits ace pilot Vince Connors (Dudikoff) to retrieve the aircraft. He is teamed up with a hotshot pilot named Jannick (Gary Hudson) and, well, you saw Flight of Fury so you know how it plays out. Unfortunately there's no lesbian makeout session in the original as the lesbian terrorist is a man sporting a accent that wavers somewhere between Russian and German.

The climax sees Dudikoff taking on an entire air force base with a couple of pistols and a handful of grenades. Hilarious stuff, especially when the dumbest guard in the world just sits there for several minutes watching Dudikoff approach on a motorcycle. Suicidally stupid Libyan soldiers run headlong into gunfire, inexplicably pause out in the open long enough to get shot and get thrown through the air by trampolines... uh... I mean fiery explosions. There's also some re-used footage here and there.

The aerial combat scenes are much better than Flight of Fury (hey look, two jets in a single shot!) but does that really need saying? Some of the footage looks like it was appropriate from other sources and there's some cheesy looking models used in the final dogfight. Libya suspiciously resembles the deserts of Southern California, and the Libyan soldiers are all played by Americans who use bad accents whenever they remember. The fighting is of the 80s American variety, full of slow, telegraphed punches and heads being banged into metal surfaces. Dudikoff doesn't do as much fighting as he usually does, but this is almost 15 years after American Ninja and he's a lot better than Seagal.

The Dude is also a much better actor than Seagal and as a result his character is a lot more likable. Rojar (Robert Miranda) the "Produce King" is an even more embarrassing comedy sidekick in this film, while Mela (Nancy Valen) is basically the Jessica character in Flight of Fury with a "Libyan" accent. Both of them play a much less active role in the original. Gunfights are pretty much A-Team style bloodless affairs (boo!), and including the pilot's silicone enhanced girlfriend there's four (4) boobs on display in total, but I'm pretty sure Nancy Valen used a body double.

Director Rick Jacobson doesn't shake the camera around as much as Keusch, which I like, but I've never been a fan of Michael Bay style strobe light editing. I think Jacobson does a better job of telling the story too. However, if I didn't know better I'd swear this film was made in the mid 80s. Only Dudikoffs 90s style hair gives it away. I think Black Thunder edges out Flight of Fury as the better film, but either way it's 100 minutes of your life that you won't get back.

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