“The Hunt for Eagle One”, which comes with the notoriety of being produced by the legendary (or is that infamous?) Roger Corman, stars Mark Dacascos, who I have always found to be terribly affable. It’s hard not to like the guy, just as I generally find movies starring Jason Scott Lee or Bruce Campbell to be better (or at least more bearable) because it stars those men. In “Eagle One”, Dacascos plays Lt. Matt Daniels, a Marine leading an assault on the hideout of a Filipino terrorist, when he’s diverted to rescue downed female pilot Theresa Randle behind enemy lines. Meanwhile, Rutger Hauer earns a nice paycheck by chomping on a cigar and appearing onscreen intermittently from the comforts of a couple of movie sets.
Although you’ve probably never heard of him, “The Hunt for Eagle One’s” real star is director Brian Clyde, who directs the film’s many action scenes with great skill despite what must have been a low budget. (Corman is notorious for his low, low, low budgets, preferring to toss in stock footage from his extensive vault of past films rather than pay for new ones.) So given the film’s pedigree as a Corman film, it’s a wonder that “Eagle One” looks, and is as good as it is. In fact, Clyde should make copies of “Eagle One” and spread it around Hollywood , because given a bigger budget, this guy could pull off “Saving Private Ryan” without breaking a sweat.
It’s no coincidence that I mention “Saving Private Ryan”, because “Eagle One” is basically a retread of Spielberg’s film; or as Tarantino puts it, “Guys go on a mission” movies. To wit: a group of soldiers must march behind enemy lines to rescue one of their own, the mission not of their own undertaking, but to safeguard the job of their boss, General Lewis (Hauer). To that end, Daniels has to take his men deep into the Filipino jungle, battling guerillas/terrorists as they go. Meanwhile, Randle’s Amy Jennings is convinced that her captor wants to keep her alive for reasons unknown. We also hear Randle’s voiceover narration, which is a bad idea, as it undermines any tension the film might have generated from the question of whether Daniels will reach Jennings in time or not. After all, if the woman is narrating her own story, she must have survived her captivity, right?
Fans of action movies should know that “The Hunt for Eagle One” offers up great entertainment value for the buck. As for everything else… Well, let’s just say B-action movies shouldn’t try to make political statements, because they generally come through as cliché. The Evil Corporation, the Big Bad Government Conspiracy, etc. Having been kidnapped by American-hating terrorists, Jennings is of course subjected to inane slogans, is called infidel a lot, and has to listen to promises of destruction on America and all that other good stuff guys like Osama Bin Laden seems to read out of a pamphlet like mindless robots everytime someone puts a camera to their face. And I could be wrong, but writer Michael Henry Carter seems to be making a joke at the expense of military “intelligence”.
But the above are minor quibbles, as the film barely spends any time on them, which in this case is a good thing. Clocking in at a breezy 85 minutes, “The Hunt for Eagle One” zips by in a hail of bullets, jungle fatigues, and terrorist cliché. On the downside, the quick running time also means little characterization, and for the entire film I was never sure how many men Daniels had in his squad. There is Daniels, a Filipino translator, the explosives guy, and the sniper, who is also black. I believe there are about a half dozen more people in Daniels’ squad, but I could be wrong, as they seem to come and go at will. Or maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention. Let’s go with the latter.
Star Mark Dacascos doesn’t have very much to do by way of acting, although he certainly plays the skilled soldier well enough, owed more to his physicality than anything. Theresa Randle doesn’t quite convince as the downed pilot, and in the scenes where she’s required to hold a weapon, Randle looks terribly uncomfortable. And while director Brian Clyde spins gold out of pennies for the most part, even he can’t overcome all of the film’s budgetary constraints. In the film’s climactic battle, the Filipino army storms the terrorist’s hideout while aided by artillery. Curiously, one can’t help but notice that all those artillery shells never seem to land on the terrorist’s main building. They must have just rented the building, I suppose.
For an action film on a budget, “The Hunt for Eagle One” is more than decent entertainment. A bigger budget and longer shooting schedule, not to mention about 30 extra minutes added to the running time, would have fleshed out the characters and the political situation in the Philippines . To be sure, the script for “Eagle One” doesn’t show much interest in being substantive on a geopolitical level, not that anyone should notice, as that particular niche is currently filled up by Hollywood ala “Syriana” and others. Which leaves you to wonder what Brian Clyde and company could have done with “Syriana’s” budget… Hopefully, we’ll get to find out one day.
Brian Clyde (director) / Michael Henry Carter (screenplay)
CAST: Mark Dacascos …. Lt. Matt Daniels
Theresa Randle …. Capt. Amy Jennings
Rutger Hauer …. Gen. Frank Lewis