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Movie Reviews : 'Iron Eagle II': A Sequel Proves Its Mettle

November 15, 1988|KEVIN THOMAS

Although Tri-Star banned critics from its press screenings, "Iron Eagle II" (citywide) is actually a far better film than the original, which achieved a kind of perfection of preposterous awfulness. It was the 1986 picture in which a crusty retired Air Force colonel (Louis Gossett Jr., in a parody of his Oscar-winning performance in "An Officer and a Gentleman") came to the aid of an 18-year-old who commandeers an F-16 fighter to rescue his father, a jet-fighter pilot, who's been shot down and taken prisoner in a fictional Middle Eastern country--read Libya.

As before, there's lots of aerial warfare razzle-dazzle, and once again the bad guys are some unspecified Arabs. But this time director Sidney J. Furie and co-writer Kevin Elders have avoided the ugly jingoism and sheer foolishness of the first film and come up with a punchy, fast-moving action flick. Those Arabs are on the verge of being able to launch a nuclear missile, precipitating the formation of an unprecedented joint U.S.-Soviet effort to mount a preemptive attack from a secret base in Israel. (The film claims to be the first Canadian-Israel co-production.) You guessed it, Gossett's Chappy, who'd been shunted off to an air museum, is ordered to head up the American contingent.

Furie and Elders have some broad fun with a bunch of mavericks expected to get into the spirit of glasnost with their Soviet counterparts. Our key pilot (Mark Humphrey) is a cocky guy while the Russian is a sultry woman (Sharon H. Brandon); they're mutually attracted, but romance will have to be put on hold.

This time out Chappy is much cooler-headed, allowing Gossett considerably more dignity. To be sure, events provoke him and his Soviet counterpart (Alan Scarfe) to take matters into their own hands, but there's a scary credibility regarding the identity of the villain of the plot. "Iron Eagle II" (rated PG for language) hasn't the sleekness of "Top Gun," which it clearly tries to emulate, but it delivers the goods in its elementary fashion.

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