Downey's War on Drugs
There is a certain amount of irony when you watch "Air America" as it stars Robert Downey Jr., an actor whose issues with drugs were well documented, playing a pilot intent on destroying the drugs trade in Laos. You can't but help laugh at this ironic twist of fate, which to be frank is about the only thing you will laugh at when it comes to "Air America" a movie which tries to be half comedy, half political drama. Simply "Air America" ends up having an identity crisis, unsure as to what it is trying to be and as such never fires on all cylinders despite pairing up Robert Downey Jr. with a wise cracking Mel Gibson.
Having had his pilots licence suspended whilst flying dangerously in LA, Billy Covington (Robert Downey Jr. - Chances Are) is recruited to join a secret air force team in Laos whose motto is "Anything. Anywhere. Anytime". With a bunch of borderline psychotic pilots including the ultra cool Gene Ryack (Mel Gibson - Bird on a Wire), Billy finds himself in the thick of things as he is shot at whilst dropping off supplies to those in the villages. But when he discovers he is not only helping the local Generals drugs operation but is going to be set up by is duplicitous commander he goes to war on the drugs trade.
The concept of a secret governmental air force doing dodgy drop-offs for their bosses in Laos whilst also lining their own pockets with a range of scams is not a bad idea but it doesn't really work in "Air America". The storyline ends up struggling as it never seems to be going anywhere, even when Billy decides to destroy the local drugs factory run by General Lu Soong it doesn't become anymore interesting. The trouble is that on one hand "Air America" is all about the comedy of these risk taking pilots but then it tries to find some sort of drama and moral compass when it comes to Billy's decision to destroy the drug operation. The two end up jarring and it gets no better with subplot surrounding a commander trying to stick Billy up.
This has a knock on effect when it comes to the pairing of Downey and Gibson as both are brilliant when it comes to the comedy of sarcasm and off hand remarks. And lets be honest who else would you want to play a bit of a risk taking charmer with a dangerous side other than Gibson. But because "Air America" is struggling to know whether to be funny or serious the chemistry between them doesn't come off leaving you disappointed at a missed opportunity for plenty of wise cracks and sharp retorts.
What this all boils down to is that "Air America" is sadly a disappointing movie as the pairing up of Mel Gibson and Robert Downey Jr. should set the screen alight with quick fire banter but it doesn't. It's certainly not helped by a storyline which is thin in places and the simple fact that it doesn't know what it wants to be.