American Flyers (1985) / Drama
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for language, nudity and some sensuality
Running Time: 113 min.
Cast: David Grant, Kevin Costner, Rae Dawn Chong, Luca Bercovici, Alexandra Paul, John Amos, Janice Rule, Doi Johnson, Robert Townsend, Jennifer Grey
Director: John Badham
Screenplay: Steve Tesich
Kevin Costner (The Untouchables, Bull Durham) plays Dr. Marcus Sommers, a specialist in sports medicine who is taking the time to visit his mother and brother he left in St. Louis when their father past away from a brain aneurism some years back. Marcus fears for the health of his brother, David (Grant, The Stepford Wives), because he fears that certain symptoms are showing that he may be afflicted with the same hereditary danger. After much finagling, Marcus finally gets David to consent to run some tests on his brain, and after finding the results, he realizes that time may be short. Marcus, a one-time professional cyclist, gets David to join him for a big race in Colorado, "Hell of the West", for a grueling three-heat competition that will be the brothers' last together. With Marcus girlfriend (Chong, Beat Street) in tow, and a newfound girlfriend for David (Paul, Christine), the quartet set out to win it all, stealing the thunder away from the #1 ranked a-hole, Muzzin (Bercovici, Parasite), aka "The Cannibal".
Screenwriter Steve Tesich (Eyewitness, The World According to Garp) returns to the sport that made him an Oscar-winning success years before in Breaking Away, bicycle racing. As a story, it is a bit mundane, tossing in a fatal disease to increase the dramatic tension, and trying to bring some meaning beneath the subtext of the big race. It works in its own modest fashion, delivering some competent bits of drama, although it is coated under a heaping helping of clichés and mid-80s formula cheese. Although released first, it has a Top Gun feel to it, with a hotshot rival to try to beat, and lots of ruminating on what's important in life, as well as a budding romance (not to mention the ambiguously homo-erotic bits of male bonding and the gratuitous states of undress).
Nothing really special until the racing scenes, which are good enough to earn it a mild recommendation for those interested in either the sport itself or just not-too-heavy dramas revolving around overcoming one's afflictions through spirit and determination. It holds your interest, but don't expect another Breaking Away.
©2005 Vince Leo