Today is the Fourth of July. It's just a normal Saturday for most countries, but for millions of people, it marks a very special day. I'm talking of course about Liberation Day in Rwanda, which marks the end of the Rwandan Genocide. And, of course, it's also the Fast of Shiva Asar B'Tammuz in Israel, a commemoration of all the four calamities that affected the Jewish people. To commemorate these important events, as well as any others that may have happened on July 4th, I'm going to review a very special movie. A movie that is as patriotic as the holiday of Nuzul Al-Quran in Malaysia, the day on which the words of the Qur'an were first revealed to Muhammad. That movie is Air Strike.
Sort of like if American Sniper had helicopters
The historical record gives us little information about the 2004 straight-to-video movie known as Air Strike. It was directed by David Worth, who's directed other notable films such as Shark Attack 3: Megalodon. It stars Robert Rusler, who was in a movie with Robert Downey Jr. in 1985, and Jennifer Gareis, who played a virtual girlfriend in a Schwarzenegger film nobody remembers. Most of the rest of the cast doesn't even have an IMDb photo, so that's a good sign.
The film opens with a shot of the American flag waving and a paragraph of text setting up the plot for the film. The story goes:
After the September 11 attack on America, the President sent a small squadron of elite helicopter pilots and U.S. Rangers into Eastern Europe as a deterrent to terrorists.
This is their story...
I'm not quite sure why the President thinks there's a lot of terrorists in Eastern Europe, or why Eastern Europe would accept the American military setting up shop in their country. To avoid pissing off any real Eastern European countries, the story is set in the fictional country of Petrovia. However, in order to avoid being too creative, their flag is a recolored Czech Republic flag.
To provide the rest of the exposition, the second scene is a military guy (who I assume has a name) talking to Col. Blackwell (who does have a name) about the evil drug lord Ivan Stafanovich (whose name I can't spell). He's a—as Col. Blackwell explains—"war criminal, narco terrorist" and "one of the richest, most powerful, and most dangerous criminals in the world. And we want to crucify his ass." The Petrovian government and "good ol' Uncle Sam" want the U.S. military to destroy a bridge that Ivan is going to be moving a large shipment of drugs over. We are then treated to the first, but most certainly not last, scene of somebody smoking a cigar. I don't know why this movie focuses so much on cigars. I don't really want to know.
The AIR STRIKE force go out and destroy the bridge in a huge amount of gratuitous explosions and needless chanting of "USA! USA! USA! USA!" The same shot of the bridge exploding is played four or five times throughout the ten minutes of fighting, as the Rangers go on the ground and shoot at people for some reason. The helicopter pilots are about to leave when they notice that they left two of the Rangers behind (how??), and so they return and blow up the bad guys with more explosions. But tragedy is about to strike! One of the pilots has a wedding tomorrow, as is quickly pointed out. But wait, the terrorists found their one RPG!
Did I mention the helicopters were CGI? They're CGI.
I'm not sure why the pilots didn't decide to use their RPG earlier, or why the assault rifle now can shoot down a heavily armored helicopter when before they couldn't even hit two guys running across a field in plain view. But hey, it's a good thing they only managed to shoot down the two attack helicopters and not the one carrying literally everyone else. That's some luck.
To replace the two dead pilots, Col. Blackwell must recruit former squad member Ben Garret, brother of one of the dead pilots. Ben initially refuses to rejoin the team, but after he smokes a cigar (which he holds under his nose and smells, very creepily) and is informed of his brother's death, he agrees to come back. But who will replace the other dead pilot, whatshisname? All they know is that the new pilot's name is "Charlie." How mysterious. How gender neutral.
When Ivan is informed of the attack on the bridge, he and his cohort Chicago (a very Eastern European name) come up with a great plan to get revenge on the AIR STRIKE team as well as make back some of their $20M they lost from the bridge attack. Their plan is two-fold. First, they send several of their many disposable henchmen in a jeep to gun down the AIR STRIKE team at a marketplace. Their plan fails after Ben plays chicken with a speeding jeep and somehow manages to make it flip over. The second part of their plan is to commit the sloppiest bank robbery in history: they run in, shoot everyone, find someone they didn't kill, get him to open the vault, and then steal the money. And since everyone outside of the bank hasn't noticed them, they decide to shoot their guns into the air a few times to scare everyone. And then they blow up the bank. Terrorism.
Sort of like if Jack Bauer was bad at his job
We finally find out who the mysterious "Charlie" is, and surprise—it's a woman! She's also the daughter of the general, which is apparently supposed to explain how she managed to become a helicopter pilot in the military despite the ban on women in combat roles up until 2013. I'm sure this movie did their research.
I'm going to fast forward through the story here since you don't really care about what's going on. They try to get Ivan and fail. They go to the bar, some squad member called Walker (who is reading The Lord of the Rings in almost every scene he appears in) makes creepy faces, the bar gets blown up, one guy (and a whole lot of dancing women) die. But don't worry, we don't need to replace this dead guy for some reason.
Because Chicago installs some sort of computer virus on America's surveillance systems, Ben has to go out on some kind of recon mission. Before he goes, he kisses Charlie, because of course there's got to be some romance. Ben goes down and gets himself captured, despite apparently being an amazing pilot who has never ever been hit in combat. They tie him to a chair and beat him up because he won't sign a confession. Why are they beating him up? Because they're terrorists! Terrorists who have a legal system in which they need a signed confession to convict someone.
Charlie, Ben's new romantic partner, leads a rescue mission to get Ben back. But after a few beatings (and after Ivan brags about going to the University of Southern California), Ben manages to escape by beating up Ivan and Chicago when Ivan tries to cut Ben's nuts off (direct quote). He kills a few guys, blows up Ivan's stash of guns, and finds a cigar. He then dual wields two AK47s and kills Ivan's men. And then he smokes a cigar. And then he blows up Ivan's trucks. And explosives. And... money? Wasn't that the money they stole from the bank? I don't know.
The AIR STRIKE team is here! Charlie gets herself captured by Chicago, but Ben throws a knife through his forehead. Ivan shoots Ben, but the bullet is stopped by Ben's radio. They chase after Ivan in a helicopter and blow him up, and then make out in front of all their squad members. America is saved.
Sort of like a bad movie
Air Strike is a bad movie, full stop. Unlike some bad things, there aren't any redeeming qualities. This isn't a movie like National Treasure that's good because it's bad. It's just, well, bad. At least I can give a pass to something like Shark Attack 3: Megalodon, because there's got to be something playing on the Syfy Channel. But there's just no excuse for this movie existing. It should be noted that this movie currently holds a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 2.0 rating on IMDb, narrowly beating out Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2 (1.9), Birdemic (1.8), and Foodfight! (1.9). I've seen Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2. I think it was a better film.
Happy Rwandan Liberation Day, everybody.