Plot: What’s it about?
When looking at the film resume of Kevin Costner, I doubt he (or anyone else) will look towards American Flyers. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always enjoyed the film (as you’ll see below), but let’s face it – it’s not some of his best work. What it did, though, was gave Costner his first shot of headlining a movie. Made in 1985, Costner would go onto some other notable roles in No Way Out, Bull Durham and Brian de Palma’s The Untouchables. Costner would then start the 90’s with his Best Director/Best Picture-winning Dances With Wolves. From there, I don’t think we need to recount his subsequent films. But even the biggest stars had to earn their name somehow and this film gave him his shot. Director John Badham (Saturday Night Fever, War Games and Bird on a Wire to name a few) was working from a flawed script. But enough about the history, let’s go for a ride.
Costner plays Marcus Sommers, a doctor who has had a falling out with his mother and brother. His younger brother, David (David Grant) is convinced that he has the same hereditary condition that killed his father. Marcus spends time with his family and convinces David to get tested for the condition and at the same time do a little brotherly “bonding” by competing in “The Hell of the West.” We also meet Marcus’ wife, Sarah (Rae Dawn Chong) and perhaps the best-looking hitchhiker we’ve ever seen (Alexandra Paul). The medical issues seem to take a backseat thanks to some well-staged ariel shots of the ride.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen the film and, truthfully, it hasn’t aged too well. The movie leaves a lot of unanswered questions and seems to offer us bits of information that don’t really pertain to the movie, rather to strike an emotional chord within the viewer. If you’ve got half a brain, the ending is essentially telegraphed about an hour before the credits roll. Still, if you’ve even a passing interest in biking (and I wonder how those helmets they were actually did anything) then this certainly has its share of notable scenes. Ultimately, and it pains me to say this, having seen so many films in my day once I though was a good film actually was just…OK.
Video: How does it look?
I’m sure it’s been about two decades since I sat down and watched this movie, but that’s OK. When I saw that Warner Archive was getting their hands on this, my eyes did light up. Warner Archive does do a good job with their catalog titles and does sport a new 1080p master. And that’s evident from the first few seconds of the movie. It’s been cleaned up, the dirt and grain are gone, detail has been improved as has the color. This isn’t the best-looking film, to be sure, but it’s the best it’s looked. I do have to applaud studios that take some lesser-known titles and give them a nice dusting.
Audio: How does it sound?
A DTS HD Master 2.0 mix is used, and it also serves its purpose. There’s a lot of synthesizer music (as was typical in ’80’s films) that would sound to dry and broken off in a newer mix. Dialogue is clear, a bit muted at times, but it sounds pretty good. There is one scene, when they’re watching a tape of an old “Hell of the West”, where Marcus (Costner) says–“Here’s what it sounds like to win…” All in all it’s a passable mix that more than serves its purpose.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Theatrical Trailer – The original theatrical trailer is included. And that’s it.
The Bottom Line
Costner has made better films in his career and worse. This serves as a launching pad for the “would be” star of so many films in the 90’s and beyond. Warner Archives has given this a new look, though the lack of anything other than a trailer is a bit disappointing.