Riders of the Storm (1986)

A plane wreck of a film

By 1986, most of America was putting away their rabbit ears and plugging in their cable boxes. While paltry by today’s standards, the an increased number of cable channels carried with them a promise that their might be a channel for everyone. Of course, even today, in our on demand, 500 plus channel future, we still have a hard time finding something to suit our most personal desires. We still feel beholden to our content providers. Wouldn’t it be great if there was someone operating outside the confines of cable, some rebels broadcasting cutting edge programming?

Herein lies the fantasy that is Riders of the Storm, aka The American Way, a braindead satire for the MTV generation. War-fried Vietnam vets circle the skies in an outdated bomber broadcasting pirate television signals, bringing red-blooded American’s just what they want – music videos filled with titillation and powerful imagery.

Payloads full of exposition inform us that the warbirds may land their station in the sky and go legit, that is until a war-hungry Presidential candidate gives them resolve to keep flying. Why the feel a need to bring down this darkhorse, female candidate is just uncertain. The vets and their political motives are both rather under-developed. The filmmakers take more interest in linking the war-mongering, Reaganesque candidate to born-again televanglists. These two villians give writer Scott Roberts and director Maurice Phillips broad targets  to aim their humor at, but sadly they have little of interest to say about these subjects. Instead, what comes out is a stew of jibberish sequences laced together with videos and music. To some degree, I am certain that the references to particular songs and images are meant to further serve as political and cultural commentary, but they feel so ephemeral that everything is awash.

While Dennis Hopper and Michael J. Pollard provide the smallest dose of interest, the rest of the film, from story to execution is painfully scatterbrained and dreadfully hard to get through. When the DVD started to crap out in the final minutes of the film I felt both cheated and relieved. Perhaps in more competent hands this could have reached the level of Americathon or even Repo Man. Instead we get a film channeling Dr. Strangelove, Videodrome, a slew of other, better films, not to mention the television show Night Flight. Even with such great influences the whole film fizzles resulting in a real dud.

I can’t even think of one scene worth saving from this turkey.


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