STEALTH FIGHTER

stealth fighter

STEALTH FIGHTER (1999)

TAGLINE: “The Ultimate Street Fight At 50,000 Feet”

IMDb Rating: 3.8/10

Medical experts say that the human body shuts down at moments of extreme trauma. Car crash victims or those who have had near-death experiences often display symptoms of selective amnesia – effectively blocking out their memory of the actual incident. Opinion is divided as to whether or not the process of regressing the patient back to the event itself is actually helpful or harmful. Confronting the problem head on may be considered a healthy process. But in some extreme cases, efforts towards catharsis can go terribly wrong and ultimately serve no other purpose than sending the patient spiralling further into their trauma – sometimes never to return.

Stealth Fighter’ certainly felt like a car crash. We’re pretty certain that afterwards, as we emerged blinking into the sunlight of West London, we did look somewhat reminiscent of two people who’d just dragged themselves out of a nine car pile up and were found by the emergency services shuffling across the carriageways of the M6 like bleary-eyed zombies.

Recovery was never going to be an easy process but, as the saying goes, time is a great healer. It was in the spirit of this clichéd adage that we decided to hold off on what was sure to be a pithy and whimsical textual analysis of this Ice-T starring airborne action thriller, until we truly felt ready to come to terms with what we had seen. Admittedly we were also put off by a series of flash visions of ourselves in a demure oak panelled courtroom being handed a child’s soft toy and asked: “Where did the movie hurt you, son?”

But, like a disgruntled postal worker with access to high-powered weaponry, we waited until the screaming voices in our heads became too loud to ignore. Though upon sitting down to write up the movie, all we were faced with was a blank word processing document and a blinking cursor… for four hours. No words came. And, like the lazy synopsis of a Slovakian character drama written by a TV listings journalist who can’t be bothered to actually watch the film before filing copy late on a Friday afternoon, we realized we were going to have to reconcile with our past in order to face our future. And that meant one thing…

…we were going to have to watch ‘Stealth Fighter’ again.

Thankfully the impact of what we were somehow voluntarily entering into was ameliorated by the half box of three-years-past-their-best-before-date Lemsips I ingested* in the hour leading up to that fateful decision. Whether it was the debilitating man flu or some unexpected chemical high caused by mutated lemony powder is hard to say.

Admittedly the second viewing was nowhere near as tortuous as the first had been– it was splinters under the fingernails rather than electrodes to the scrotum. We could at least formulate cogent sentences after the closing credits rolled for a second time. But rest assured that while the impact was far reduced, the shortcomings stood proudly, eight storeys tall in flashing neon.

For starters, the bulk of the movie takes place in the supposed Angolan hideout of former naval pilot gone rogue (Ice T) who has stolen a Stealth Fighter on behalf of a drug baron- these Stealth Fighters being about as thief resistant as a 1989 Vauxhall Nova apparently. And although we are supposed to be on the West African coast, the gentrification of this former Portuguese colony seems to be progressing apace as there doesn’t appear to be a single black face anywhere to be seen.

Then we have the supposed might of US Army attempting to bring the villainous Ice-T to justice by sending in a tubby insurgent team to raid his villa complex – they’re meant to be US Rangers, they might have well sent  Queen’s Park Rangers.

Add to this some truly woeful performances from all involved (including Shawshank lifer William Sadler and Ghostbuster Ernie Hudson as the least presidential head of state ever committed to celluloid), throw in perhaps the worst dialogue ever written in a modern language and you have a complete package that might function as a fitting alternative to waterboarding should the Obama administration ever fancy dusting off a few of its predecessor’s more extreme policies.

As has been previously touched upon – the re-use of material from other films is not an uncommon process in movies such as this. But ‘Stealth Fighter’ takes it to a level where you half expect Al Gore to turn up with an award for the filmmakers’ commitment to recycling. Even casual movie fans will no doubt spot shots half-inched from the likes of ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ and ‘The Hunt for Red October’ but the more eagle eyed should also look out for glimpses of ‘Crimson Tide,’ ‘Clear And Present Danger,’ ‘Iron Eagle,’ ‘Executive Decision’ and even the shocking Kelsey Grammer-starring 1996 comedy ‘Down Periscope’ – arguably the only time when a film of this standard has nabbed material from a movie that may actually be worse.[1]

In fact a lot of the footage seems familiar not from our misspent youth in the cinema, but from our misspent adulthood spent on a leatherette sofa in Ealing. Practically every shot of the titular aircraft in flight also appears in ‘Storm Catcher’ – which isn’t surprising when you find that both were produced by the same guy.

But this is hardly the film’s worst transgression – the fact that pretty much every aspect of plot, character, structure or action of any kind is replicated wholesale from a million other movies is just as offensive. So much so that the filmmakers get so tied up in tired clichés and predictable plot twists that they don’t realize they’re stealing even from themselves – the rogue agent twisteroo happens at least twice in ‘Stealth Fighter’. When they’re blatantly reassembling material from other, better films, it’s done from a position of budgetary necessity. The fact that they can’t seem to infuse any of the material they’ve actually written, choreographed, lit, shot and edited themselves with even the vaguest sense of originality makes the whole experience as embarrassing as realizing you are the only non-rogue government agent at a 10 year reunion party.

We may be the only people in the world who have seen ‘Stealth Fighter’ twice. And in what have so far been terrifyingly uneventful lives, filled with missed opportunities and aching regrets over paths not taken, we think this may just be our one crowning achievement.

* Tim has now taken to drugging himself get through this

Stealth Fighter – Trailer


[1]The sheer number of movies that ‘Stealth Fighter’ pilfers from has inspired us to create a game in the spirit of the classic ‘6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon’ where fans can attempt to jump from film to film using only actors who have appeared in two or more. So far we have: ‘Crimson Tide’ starred Gene Hackman who was in ‘Bat 21’ which also starred Danny Glover as did ‘Flight of the Intruder’ and ‘Iron Eagle’ where he co-starred with David Suchet who was in ‘Executive Decision’ alongside Steven Seagal, the star of ‘Under Siege 2: Dark Territory.’ But there it comes crashing to a disappointing conclusion. Perhaps someone with far more time, and navigational skills of the IMDb, can do better.

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