I’ve always enjoyed Behind Enemy Lines, a hyperactive, simple minded, highly kinetic Owen Wilson/Gene Hackman war survival flick. It’s lowbrow, full of plot holes and questionable in terms of representing both the military and the Serbian/Bosnian war, but it’s also explosive, jacked up fun that packs a visual and auditory wallop. Wilson is an Air Force pilot who goes awol after a crash, and runs afoul of some Serbian radicals running a sickening genocide operation somewhere out there, while Hackman is the fiery Admiral tasked with coaching him back to an elusive drop point, and helping him avoid obstacles along the way. In pursuit is a nasty rogue general (Olek Krupa), who wants to snuff him out as he’s witnessed the man’s squadron murder his copilot (Gabriel Macht), and also just because he’s the classic stock villain and has nothing better to do. His top assassin (Vladimir Mashkov, almost identical to Niko Bellik of Grand Theft Auto 4) is an Eastern European Bear Grylls with homemade grenades and the pain tolerance of a tank, also chasing poor Wilson. It’s fairly implausible, but oh so cinematic and one I often put on just to work out the sound system of my tv. Crazy souped up editing, jagged freeze frame effects and whatnot ensue, it’s cool and kind of like Tony Scott Lite in a way. Hackman could yell out any dialogue and be convincing, owning yet another role, especially in a scene where he has a wicked shouting match with an A-hole of a UN General (Joaquim De Almeida firing on all cylinders and then some). David Keith has a great bit as another Admiral assisting in Wilson’s plight too. It’s suspenseful, doesn’t take itself too seriously and shouldn’t be subject to too much scrutiny, lest you rob yourself of a pleasurable genre viewing experience. Plus the sequence where Wilson hides in a freaky, mud filled mass grave has stuck with me for years. Good stuff, man.
Film versions of Stephen King novels can be a tricky thing. Often they’re half assed, clunky miniseries (ever tried to sit down and watch The Langoliers??), and when they’re given the lofty cinema treatment, he has famously turned his nose in the face of Kubrick’s might. I feel like Firestarter escaped unscathed, and still holds to this day, if a bit achingly retro now. It’s a thriller perceived in a childlike manner by its young protagonist, Charlie Mcgee (Drew Barrymore). Charlie can start fires with her mind, and certain shadowy agencies just can’t wait to get their hands on her. Her father (David Keith) once participated in some scary drug testing related to telekinesis back in the day, and some of whatever altered his DNA has been passed on to her. He will do anything to protect her, as the two frantically race across the country to safety, pursued by forces working for Hollister (Martin Sheen), a spook with too much power and nasty ideas about what to do with it. Also on their trail is pseudo spiritual whacko John Rainbird, who wants to absorb Charlie’s abilities, man what a freak. Rainbird is a native American in King’s novel, so white haired yankee boy Scott is an odd choice, but he does a fine job all the same. Two things are what makes this one really stand out in a special way. Tangerine Dream provides yet another ultrasonic, elemental synth score that has since become legendary. It accents the story in an almost fairy tale like way, gilding the danger with a fable style sound, but never stamping out the real menace. Barrymore is the other leg of the table, giving one hell of a fierce and vulnerable performance for such a young girl, her childlike honesty a prism for the audience to see the evil around her through innocent eyes. It’s great stuff, and one of the most solid King adaptations out there. Now there is a sequel (not sure if the man wrote a second book?) called Firestarter 2: Rekindled, which pales in comparison and runs about 45 minutes too long (!), but it’s worth a look for the casting of Marguerite Moreau as a grown up Charlie, Malcolm McDowell taking over from Scott as Rainbird, and Dennis Hopper as well.