Meh-ighty Wings: Interceptor (1992)

Matty’s breath is not taken away by this airborne Die Hard variation.

Despite making its maiden flight in 1981, the F-117 Nighthawk stealth attack aircraft was shrouded in secrecy until 1988, and only entered public consciousness in 1991, when it was heavily publicised for its role in the Gulf War. With the Gulf War itself a triumph of pro-American propaganda and high-tech weaponry, the first wave of straight-to-video flicks inspired by the Persian Gulf conflict happened within months of its finish. Said films were heavy on patriotism and hardware fetishism, both of which were a prominent part of the U.S. government’s tightly controlled media coverage. And while fighter jets had been a hot cinematic commodity since Tony Scott’s barnstorming Top Gun (1986), the now extremely popular Nighthawk made its movie debut here, in the disappointingly so-so INTERCEPTOR — a tepid Die Hard (1988) riff with a couple of neat touches. 

The neatest, of course, is having Jürgen Prochnow as its plane-jacking baddie. Giving an instant boost to anything, Prochnow is typically excellent, relishing yet another opportunity to play an A-grade bastard. Andrew Divoff is also pretty good as Interceptor’s heroic counterbalance: a noble good guy turn that’ll surprise those accustomed to his villainous performances in Another 48 Hrs. (1990), Toy Soldiers (1991), and Wishmaster (1997). The film’s script ain’t too shabby either, with John Brancato and Michael Ferris — a pair of Roger Corman graduates who’d already penned a couple of similarly themed military thrillers for Interceptor’s producers, Oliver G. Hess and Kevin M. Kallberg, and who’d go on to write The Game (1997) and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003) — delivering a near textbook example of cost-conscious action storytelling.   

Thing is, it’s just not very exciting. Helmer Michael Cohn is a capable pair of hands but seems to operate solely on a get-it-done level. Visually and emotionally bland, Interceptor feels routine and soulless. The ingredients are all there and it’s an edible dish, but it’s been cooked so rigidly to the recipe that Chef Cohn neglected to season it. As such, Interceptor is more an economy trundle to Benidorm than it is a Mach-busting adrenaline shot.

Still, the Nighthawk looks cool though.

USA ● 1992 ● Action ● 88mins

Andrew Divoff, Jürgen Prochnow, Elizabeth Morehead ● Dir. Michael Cohn ● Wri. John Brancato & Michael Ferris 

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