That is why, if anyone asks, we decided to watch the movie Spitfire. We didn't just wander by this film in the video store like so many you read about here. Oh no, we saw the preview for Spitfire on another tape and we were driven to see it. Driven in the same way a moth is driven to a flame... and boy, did we get burned!
The most compelling thing about this movie is the cast. Among the people we saw in the preview:
Lance Henriksen: He played Bishop in Aliens, and he can now be seen in Fox TV's Millennium. He is an excellent actor, though he has appeared in a lot of straight-to-video junk.
Tim Thomerson: If you've been reading our site for any amount of time, you know who Tim is. He played Jack Deth in all five Trancers films, he played one of Mel Gibson's cronies in Air America, he was the Blur in those Baby Ruth commercials. He is the king of B-actors, a consummate performer, and a good friend.*
Brion James: Brion is known as the "time to die" guy from Blade Runner. More recently he appeared in The Fifth Element. Also a b-actor extraordinaire and a childhood friend of Thomerson's.
Sarah Douglas: She was Ursa in Superman II. She's been in a lot of bad movies since then.
There are not many movies out there that could correctly utilize a cast like this, and Spitfire doesn't even come close. For instance, Henriksen plays a James Bond-type character named Richard Charles, complete with a wardrobe made of nothing but tuxedoes, cool cars, and a jet pack. Unfortunately, Henriksen's performance in this film makes even riding a jet pack look boring. Our theory is that ol' Lance had some boat payments to make, because he's not even paying attention to his fellow cast members.
The film opens with Charles enjoying a quiet tryst with a lover. He's in full tuxedo, but somehow she manages to be topless in the first two minutes of the film (not including the standard "naked dancing girls with guns" opening credits). Learn from this: nudity in a film's first scene is not a good sign. Mercifully, this love scene is interrupted by the appearance of an old arch-enemy, Carla (Douglas), who wants something that Mr Charles has: a career.
The lover takes her cue from this and, in the ensuing martial-arts/gunfight scene, kills several men before dying herself -- topless all the while. What a woman! Before dying, of course, she reveals to Charles her deepest secret: he is the father of her daughter, Charlie. Richard makes his escape and flies away with the aformentioned jet pack.
That is the director's cue to change scenes, and so we meet Charlie Case (Kristie Phillips), Richard's daughter and world-class gymnast/martial artist. Rex Beechum (Thomerson), an opportunistic reporter, latches on to Charlie in an attempt to expose the seamy underside of women's gymnastics (which, if you believe this film, involves such competitive practices as spiking the powder bin and dosing your rivals with seizure-inducing drugs). After one such competition, Charles approaches Charlie, stashes something on her person without her knowledge, and is quickly captured by Carla and her minions.
A merry chase begins once Carla figures out that Charlie has the disk (or actually another tired plot device, the key to a safe deposit box that contains the disk), and they pursue her gymnastics tour group across Europe and Asia in an attempt to retrieve it. Beechum follows suit, and Charlie spends the rest of the film changing accents from scene to scene and occasionally punching someone (mostly Beechum). In an attempt to ape (or perhaps parody) the Bond movies, Spitfire features many international locations.
As with other Pyun films, the director pretty much points the camera at the actors, has then do a scene, then movies on. Nobody in this movie ever milks a joke or does a delivery that serves the material. Perhaps the worst casualty of this treatemnt is one of Spitfire's running gags, that is that Charles has left a string of illegitimate children all over the world who have gone into the intelligence-gathering service. This could have been an amusing subplot, but every time it's brought up, it falls flat.
Spitfire may have some historical significance as the first movie ever to be built around the presence of a gymnastics star. And while we can't say anything bad about Kristie Phillips as a gymnast, she isn't much of an actress. Through most of the movie she tries to do some sort of accent, but darned if we could tell what it was. A couple of times it sounded kind of Valley Girl, other times it sounds Austrailian, and some other times it sounds like a Southern drawl. Exactly what her heritage might be is completely up in the air. It should also be added that she has a mean right hook, which she uses on Tim Thomerson several times. We enjoyed those parts of the movie way too much.
Spitfire is just another stupid direct to video action movie, by now familiar to anyone who spends any amount of time in a video store. Unless you are a big fan of several of the actors who appear in this film, you do not want to see Spitfire. You've been warned. This movie is not so bad it's good. It's so bad it's bad.
* Two of the statements in this sentence are completely false. We're investigating how they got by our fact checker. Back to the review.
Review date: 2/24/98
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