Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Film Review: TOP GUN (1986, Tony Scott)

Stars: 2.5 of 5.
Running Time: 110 minutes.
Tag-line: "...It's a solo mission ... Yeah! ...And I'm going with him..."
Notable Cast or Crew: Tom Cruise, Anthony Edwards, Tom Skerritt, Tim Robbins, Michael Ironside, Val Kilmer, John Stockwell, Rick Rossovich, Kelly McGillis, Whip Hubley, Meg Ryan. Music by Harold Faltermeyer, Giorgio Moroder, Berlin, Kenny Loggins, Cheap Trick, Loverboy. (At one point, tracks from Toto, including their version of "Danger Zone" were to be included, but it was not to be.)
Best one-liner: "That's right! Ice... man. I am dangerous!"

It has come to my attention that over time, viewers have apparently accused TOP GUN of containing 'homoerotic subtext.' Well, I'm here to tell you that it's a bunch of hogwash, hooey, n' bunkum. No way is an organization as hetero as the U.S. Navy (who had script approval and altered many already propaganda style sequences to make them even more like recruiting advertisements) going to infuse a film with homoerotic subt–

I'd say it was the right time
To walk away

When dreaming takes you nowhere
It's time to play

Bodies working overtime


Your money don't matter
The clock keeps ticking

When someone's on your mind

I'm moving in slow motion

Feels so good

It's a strange anticipation
Knock, knock, knocking on wood

Bodies working overtime

Man against man

And all that ever matters

Is baby who's ahead in the game

Funny but it's always the same

Playin', playin' with the boys

Playin', playin' with the boys

After chasing sunsets
One of life's simple joys

Is playin' with the boys

Said it was the wrong thing
For me to do
I said it's just a boys' game
Girls play too

My heart is working overtime

In this kind of game
Someone gets hurt

I'm afraid that someone is me

If you want to find me,

I'll be Playin' with the boys

I don't want to be the moth around your fire
I don't want to be obsessed by your desire

I'm ready, I'm leaving

I've seen enough

I've got to go
You play too rough

Well said, Kenny Loggins. What's that other thing, the thing that's more important than the subtext? That thing that rides atop it? Ah, that's right... the text. So allow me to revise my statement: there is no homoerotic subtext in TOP GUN, there is only homoerotic text. Let's look at a sampling of said text, which can be read aloud as a free-form tone poem:

"Pull up, Cougar. Almost there."
"You need to be doing it better and cleaner than the other guy."
"I'd like to bust your butt."
"Slide into Cougar's spot."'
"Yes, I know the finger, Goose."
"I'm gonna break high and right, see if he's really alone."
"Splash that sucker, yeah!"
"Below the hard deck does count!"
"I want somebody's butt!"
"I want some butts!"
"God, buttnose!"

And, conversely, here's an example of subtext in TOP GUN- when serenaded by Top Gun pilots who croon, a cappella, "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling," Kelly McGillis announces: "I've never seen that approach." Now here's that declaration once more, with subtext added in italics: "I've never seen that approach (outside of a piano bar)."

Now, ordinarily a propaganda puff-piece based off of a magazine article that's got more implied assjammin' than QUIET COOL should be guaranteed to entertain. But ah, there's a problem: as much as I want to like it, TOP GUN fails to recognize its inner fabulosity, gets caught up in too many lifeless dogfight sequences, and is altogether pretty dull. And I believe my working definition of the word "dull" is something along the lines of "the parts of a Michael Ironside movie where Michael Ironside is not present."

And that's precisely the problem. IRONSIDE is in TOP GUN! We've got the man on set already. Then the producers proceed to give him nothing to do, and in as few scenes as possible. He's trying his best to maintain steadfast hetero Canadian dignity in the midst of wall-to-wall sultry stares and steamy man-shenanigans that are pulling focus all over the place. He can't even teach a class without some wag hollering, "This gives me a hard-on!"

How is Ironside supposed to focus on his performance when right in front of him, Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer are wrapped in an ocular embrace worthy of a Castellari flick? That look of confusion upon Ironside's face says it all- "Why didn't you say it was gonna be this kind of flick?- I could have brought in my pleather vest from VISITING HOURS."

So Ironside is criminally underused. How about the stuff in the plus column? Well, Loggins' "Danger Zone" is played, in its entirety- intro and all- three times. I can get behind that. Tom Skerritt is solid, too.

He gets a way beefier man part than Ironside and he doesn't waste it. The cinematography by Jeffrey L. Kimball (THE EXPENDABLES, JACOB'S LADDER, TRUE ROMANCE) is robust, vigorous, and stylish, and I think that every recruiting commercial for the Navy/Army/Air Force (besides this one) has borrowed heavily from it.

In the end, though, it pains me to report that for all the camp value and Anthony Edwards' 'stache, TOP GUN really doesn't hold up. Boys: commence playing with these two and a half-stars... and mind the sharp edges!

-Sean Gill

Odd side note: three of the cast members would go on to star (or co-star) in the first season of ER: Anthony Edwards, Rick Rossovich, and Michael Ironside.

6. BLIND FURY (1989, Philip Noyce)
7. HIS KIND OF WOMAN (1951, John Farrow)
8. HIGH SCHOOL U.S.A. (1983, Rod Amateau)
9. DR. JEKYLL AND MS. HYDE (1995, David Price)
11. 1990: BRONX WARRIORS (1982, Enzo G. Castellari)
12. FALLING DOWN (1993, Joel Schumacher)
13. TOURIST TRAP (1979, David Schmoeller)
14. THE THREE MUSKETEERS (1973, Richard Lester)
15. BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA (1986, John Carpenter)
16. TOP GUN (1986, Tony Scott)
17. ...


J.D. said...

yeah, this film deserves low marks for wasting Ironside in such a nothing role! Ah, I guess it was back to beer commercials after this one...

Sean Gill said...

I guess I should give thanks they didn't stick 'im in a cardigan at least.