A while back, I spent a whopping $5 on this 50-movie set, Sci-fi Invasion. That adds up to 10 cents per movie. Slipstream, from 1989, has big-name movie stars and lush production values. It’s almost like watching a real movie. Almost.
Here’s what happens: It’s the post-apocalyptic future. A misunderstood fugitive (Bob Peck, a.k.a. Muldoon from Jurassic Park) is on the run from a ruthless cop (Mark Hamill!). A rough n’ tumble bounty hunter (Bill Paxton!), sensing a big payday, captures the fugitive for himself and the two of them head out on a cross-country trip in hopes for big reward. They do the “buddy-action-movie” thing as they meet characters played by F. Murray Abraham (!), Ben Kingsley (!), and Robbie Coltrane (make that shirtless Robbie Coltrane, ladies!)
Speculative spectacle: The plot revolves around the mysterious fugitive who has all kinds of healing powers and esoteric knowledge, setting up a mystery as to who he is and where he came from. I won’t spoil it, but the reveal is a little disappointing. It all leads to a head-trippy “last remnants of civilization” third act, which gets close to being interesting, but feels like something out of a whole other movie.
Do you like gliders? Hope so, because about one-third of this movie is glider footage. To get from place to place, our heroes ride the titular “Slipstream” throuh the air in their glider. This is one of those gliders that’s the size of a small, two-seater airplane. There are other gliders pursuing them. The filmmakers were no doubt really hoping we’d buy into these things looking futuristic and that we’d love seeing them swoop through sky. Because swoop they do. Over and over and over.
Sleaze factor: There’s an out-of-nowhere scene in which our heroes fly their glider past a mountaintop cave, where they can see a woman doing nude yoga inside. They circle around to get a closer look, only for her to close the blinds… of her cave?
Quantum quotables: “Sometimes I dream about a balloon shop. Well, it’s more like a balloon factory. Thousands of balloons, filling the sky, with my name on them. But I always wake up.” – That heartwarming moment when the tough guy hero opens up and lets us know what he really feels.
What the felgercarb? An android character is derisively referred to as a “toaster.” So that’s where the Galactica crew got it from!
Microcosmic minutiae: OK, here’s the alleged story behind this one: Producer Gary Kurtz parted ways with George Lucas after they collaborated on The Empire Strikes Back. Slipstream was supposed to be Kurtz’s big comeback, a major sci-fi epic to rival the massive popularity of the Star Wars films. It was under this promise that all the big stars were cast, not to mention hiring Tron creator Steve Lisberger to direct and a heavily John Williams-inspired score from music legend Elmer Bernstein. Something — and we can only speculate as to what — went wrong, and the movie never received a theatrical release, nearly bankrupting Kurtz.
Worth 10 cents? Why wasn’t Slipstream the next Star Wars? It has a ponderous, dry tone, with characters randomly making Biblical or classic lit references just to sound high-minded. There’s very little action, as the filmmakers apparently thought shots of gliders swooping through the air would be a satisfactory substitute for monsters and laser battles. It’s worth the ten cents as an interesting little slice of movie history, but a it’s dull one.
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