Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB. USA/Israel, 1986. Golan-Globus Productions. Screenplay by James Bruner, Menahem Golan. Cinematography by David Gurfinkel. Produced by Yoram Globus, Menahem Golan. Music by Alan Silvestri. Production Design by Luciano Spadoni. Costume Design by Tami Mor. Film Editing by Alain Jakubowicz.
Having previously made an Oscar nominated film about the 1976 Air France hijacking that resulted in a daring rescue in Entebbe, Menahem Golan jumped at the opportunity to remake it with a bigger budget and in English, this time inspired by another similar event. Unfortunately, the 1985 TWA hijacking of Flight 847 didn’t have as happy an outcome as Entebbe, so Golan decided to invent a story that would allow for all the sex and violence that he and producing partner Yoram Globus were famous for exploiting, while also using the project as an opportunity to introduce his personal discovery, Chuck Norris, to the moviegoing world. The adventure begins with Lebanese terrorists (headed by Robert Forster, doing a decent but also hilarious job in brownface) busting out their weapons and overpowering passengers and crew soon after takeoff from Athens, choosing not to kill themselves despite the fact that both Lainie Kazan and Shelley Winters are on board and won’t stop screaming (watch Winters when she’s on screen even if she’s not in close up, it’s incredibly satisfying). Landing in Beirut and splitting their hostages up, the bad guys are determined to get their demands met even though an elite American military force headed up by Lee Marvin is coming to save the day; given that Norris always has a motorcycle stashed somewhere nearby, do the bad guys even stand a chance? I’d love to say it’s a juicy and fun experience, but the editing lacks skill and the violence defies too much logic (even for a fantasy action film) to be palatable on its own terms, plus the uneven narrative weight between the first and second halves is just strange. Norris performs the physical requirements of the role more than adequately but seems far too unmotivated, to put it mildly, in any scene that requires talking. He’s likely confused by the movie itself, which doesn’t even require his efforts until well more than an hour in, but like the viewer is so charmed by its blind confidence that it can’t be too cruel about its many shortcomings. It’s another one of those movies that needs to be seen to be believed.