Air America Reviews
The problems with Air America rest squarely on one factor: the marketing.
The film has been marketed as a buddy comedy against the backdrop of the Vietnam war, but in actuality the tone of the film is significantly different to what it has been advertised as. Air America is made too look like a comedy and even has elements in the film that makes it clear that to a certain extent, that is what Roger Spottiswoode was going for
There really isn't that much funny about illegal opium and heroin trade happening in Laos and it's transportation so the humour should come from either sight gags, humourous script moments or comedic characters. Air America boasts none of these and rarely could I actually pick up on comedic elements that the filmmakers had even attempted to implore into the story and so I wondered if half the time that is actually what they were going for or if it was all just a lot of confusion.
Ken Jenkins is the only person who seems to be consistently comedic but that's only because his performance is obviously very similar to his role as Doctor Bob Kelso in the hilarious long running comedy series Scrubs. Audiences may find his performance comedic by association, but stand alone there is nothing to signify that he is going for a comedic effort aside from that.
Air America has a few notable comic moments, but few of them are actually ever effective. For a supposed action-comedy, Air America is so obviously bereft of jokes and humour that audiences are likely to wonder who the hell decided to claim that the film was a comedy is way beyond me and all sensibility. Air America is no more a comedy than Saving Private Ryan, and the fact that it is said to be one by the filmmakers is ridiculous. When the film actually has clearly comedic moments, it is obvious that the three writers who teamed up to pen the film have failed to actually breathe any jokes into the experience. Air America's failed attempts at humour are cringe-worthy and it just reinforces the fact that it is not a comedy film. As it is it's barely even a failed attempt at a comedy since it is so far from humour that you'd need to be shipped as far as Vietnam to search for it. So really, if you go into Air America expecting a comedy or even a failed comedy, it will fail you in both areas which was my experience.
The film itself isn't too bad. It's flawed, but if you look at it without thinking that there are any comedic qualities to it you may find it to be a semi-decent Vietnam war film.
As it deals with a largely untold Opium and heroin trade theme, it covers a section of The Vietnam War not usually touched upon by other films that dealt with the concept, and it therefore takes an unbiased look at the theme and allows the anti-war concept to fall into place naturally without being forced. Air America doesn't tell its story as best as possible and is rudimentary as a whole, but in parts its fairly decent.
For one thing, Air America is a success from a visual perspective. While the visual effects aren't that great, the experience feels legitimate due to a lot of the vivid scenery which is shot mostly on location and the cinematography is very well angled and distanced. The colour palette that it captures is also very energetic. The action sequences aren't too bad either because they benefit from the same fine quality cinematography and editing, and there are a good few explosions in places.
But the story of the film could have been told a bit better, and I just don't think that director Roger Spottiswoode was up to the challenge when he took on Air America since he specialises more in actual buddy films such as Turner and Hooch or Stop! Or My Mom will Shoot, and so he was miscast as the director of Air America and tried to do to it what he knew best, and in this case it just was not appropriate and he was not the appropriate director.
The presence of the two lead actors gives it some benefit though.
While Mel Gibson and Robert Downey Jr. are not at their best in Air America, it is good to see the two of them go at it considering that both of them have been pretty famous Hollywood superstars at different phases in their life with Robert Downey Jr. being one of the worlds biggest stars now after recovering from stays in rehab and brushes with the law, and Mel Gibson who is on the start of a comeback right now after his racist outburst. All that aside, it is just good to see them teaming up in their youth and engaging in a chemistry which has some comical moments but a genuine realism between them. The fact that they are teamewd up isn't as funny as one might hope, but its just good to see them doing it together anyway. And their standalone performances are alright as well. Granted they aren't incredible, but considering the substandard quality of the film it is just good to have two legends like Mel Gibson and Robert Downey Jr. to boast about. They manage to lighten the mood a little and make for easy watching.
So Air America doesn't have enough action or nearly any comedy whatsoever so it can barely qualify as the action comedy that the marketing campaign for the film had it advertised as. And it doesn't take advantage of its high concept plot or tell its story all too well, but it has its moments and benefits from the two lead actors, Mel Gibson and Robert Downey Jr.
also stars Nancy Travis, Ken Jenkins, David Marshall, Lane Smith, Art La Fleur, Ned Eisenberg and Marshall Bell.
directed by Roger Spottiswoode