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Saturday, 11 February 2017

Retro Review: Bird On A Wire (1990)

Bird On A Wire
Cast: Mel Gibson, Goldie Hawn, David Carradine, Bill Duke
Genre: Action Comedy
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $138 million 

Plot: Rick Jarmin is put on witness protection after he helps the FBI bust drug dealer Eugene Sorenson. 15 years later, he is living with a new identity as a gas station attendant. When an old flame named Marianne stops at the gas station and recognises him, his cover is blown. The recently released Eugene finds out, and both Rick and Marianne have to flee across the country, with the vengeful Eugene in hot pursuit

'How Not To Do An Action Rom-Com'

Bird On A Wire could have been so much better if it wasn't so generic and that someone else, other than Mel Gibson was in the lead role. 

Gibson's character, Billy Ray/Rick, spouting an unnecessary ponytail, is virtually a Tennesee version of Martin Riggs of Lethal Weapon - only a lot less insane and somewhat a slightly more, but not moreso lovable rogue. His cover has been blown wide open and as a result, the bad guys are on his tail, he finds himself on the run and even drags his long-lost lover, a lawyer named Marianne into it as well. 

This film would have worked better if it had Kurt Russell playing opposite his missus, Goldie Hawn, instead of Mel Gibson as Billy Ray. I know people will say it is Goldie Hawn who is out of her element here; she may look out of place and she comes across as being too sweet and innocent when she ought to be more disillusioned and cynical. At the beginning of the film, her character is smart and sophisticated, but 10 mins after, right until the end of the movie, Marianne is dumbed down and rendered useless as she becomes a damsel in distress. But I do think this would have still been an interesting film for her - had she had someone playing opposite her, who could really make their partnership work... and for me, that person is none other than Kurt. She does seem to play exactly the same type of character, but for in Wildcats and Private Benjamin, and whilst that annoys a lot of people, I wished she made better film roles choices. 

Bird On A Wire seems to be a film where Gibson lacks a natural penchant for comedy in a film that is part- comedy, and Hawn here lacks a strong presence for action, in a film that is also part-action. 

The onscreen chemistry between herself and Gibson is strained and almost to a point, bereft with their mismatched partnership on show not really working. Additionally, the comedy and her character are made too much to be an annoyance and of a hindrance, rather than endearing and as supportive as she ought to have been. Mel Gibson seems to be going through emotions as he is pretty much re-enacting his famous Lethal Weapon role, but with not much range. In the original Lethal Weapon, Mel evokes a sense of style and quality that makes Martin Riggs, one of the most unlikely action movie characters of the franchise. Yet here, but for a few scenes where he jumps, fights off bad guys, he has no such opportunity to stamp his mark. The villains themselves don't do anything that is evil but scowl, grunt and look angry most of the time. 

Though it was made in 1990, it definitely feels a lot like an '80s film, and a mediocre one to boot as well. Bird On A Wire also tries to ride on the coattails of and recreate Romancing The Stone's Joan Wilder and Jack Colton's enchantment, but virtually without any palpable effort, luck or payoff. The plot wanders all over the place with no clear focus on what it should achieve. 

The film doesn't work as a comedy because it was just too corny - and that's corny as in not funny and silly (the slapstick is just too corny in this film), the action scenes just don't cut it, and the story is paper-thin and lacking in invention. & the romance just wasn't believable & one I could buy into. The last third also became too over-the-top silly. 

Apparently, also, Goldie Hawn ripped into this film, long after it came out and doesn't like to be remembered for it. It has also been accused of being homophobic & racist, particularly in the scene where Rick & Marianne evade the Black cops.

Final Verdict

A Rom-com action adventure that struggles to be funny that it lacks genuine laughs, struggles to be romantic and Gibson and Hawn just don't have that sex appeal and chemistry as a pairing. A formula that is tired and dull and doesn't try to do anything different with it, Bird On A Wire tries to spread its wings and fly - only to have them clipped off. 

Overblown, at times nonsensical and way too silly for its own good with limited range in the script, when a film of this particular nature is more famous for glorifying Mel Gibson's hairy bare behind and Goldie Hawn's naked body above everything else, then the signs don't look too good. It tries to (out)do what Romancing The Stone achieved in the 1980s with the action-adventure male/female duo thing and goes one step further with some of the stunts. Yet Bird On A Wire comes off as being too amateur and distant in its approach and is completely unmemorable; thus forth, this is an example of how not to do a rom-com action film.  

For a rom-com based on long-lost, star-struck lovers reuniting together in the face of danger, this is a feather-brained attempt, which could have at least been saved by the casting of Kurt Russell, in place of Mel Gibson. If that was the case and the script had also been a lot tighter, Bird on a Wire would've stood a chance. 

Bird on the Wire? More like Bird s**t on a wire. 


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