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Film review: Aces: Iron Eagle III

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 10 1993 12:00 a.m. MST

"Aces" is the third "Iron Eagle" film featuring maverick Air Force pilot Col. Chappy Sinclair, played again by Louis Gossett Jr.

The first film had Chappy helping an 18-year-old boy fly an unauthorized rescue mission in the Middle East. The second had Chappy teaming with Soviet pilots for yet another unauthorized mission to the Middle East.

But this time around, Chappy does something completely different - he teams up with three pilots, a Peruvian woman and a street-smart hood for an unauthroized mission to South America.

And if you've watched any B-movie thrillers in the past decade, you'll know that if South America's involved, the good guys must be after drug runners.

To add a little variety this time out, the three pilots Chappy recruits are World War II vets who fought on opposite sides during the war - one is Japanese (Sonny Chiba), another is German (Horst Buchholz) and the third is British (Christopher Cazenove). This allows for an amazing number of offensive stereotypes and cliches. (And not one of them looks old enough to have been a pilot in World War II.)

The plot is revealed early on when an Air Force pilot is shot down and a stash of cocaine is discovered in his plane. Chappy, who knew the young pilot, can't believe he was smuggling drugs. And his suspicions are confirmed when a Peruvian woman shows up - the young pilot's sister (Rachel McLish) - to tell Chappy that drugs are being transported from her village to the Air Force base.

You'll spot the bad guys long before Chappy does, but suffice it to say he gets no help from his commander, so he organizes his friends, using the old WWII planes they've been flying in air shows. Their unauthorized mission? To blow up the headquarters of the evil drug lord, a former Nazi (Paul Freeman, who is, more or less, reprising his character from "Raiders of the Lost Ark").

The lengthy climax has the fliers doing wild stunts in the air, as each new explosion, shootout or spectacular killing becomes more ludicrous than the one before. The most ridiculous moment comes when a church is blown up and the steeple bell flies through the air, then lands on the head of a bad guy. It prompted a big laugh from the audience, and not an affectionate one. You'll be shaking your head as you leave the theater.

The first hint we're in trouble here is a mistake in the opening credits. Despite the declaration, "Introducing Rachel McLish," this isn't her first movie. She was in the documentary "Pumping Iron II: The Women." (She was also in the TV movie, "Getting Physical.")

Director John Glen, who seems to have been inactive since the James Bond franchise went bellyup (Glen directed the last five bond movies), lends a heavy hand here. When he's not blowing up buildings, he's giving us closeups of McLish's oiled biceps.

"Aces: Iron Eagle III" is just as dumb as the first two films in this series, but the real shame is to see Gossett going through the motions here. Remember his Oscar-winning performance in "An Officer and a Gentleman" or his Emmy-winning role as Fiddler in the TV miniseries "Roots"? He deserves better.

"Aces" is rated R for considerable violence, along with some profanity.