"Name two 'bike race' movies; Steve Tesich wrote both of 'em."
I suppose one can’t fault screenwriter Steve Tesich for penning another bike-racing movie; the guy won an Oscar (deservedly so, in my opinion) for his fantastic work on Peter Yates’ Breaking Away.Unfortunately, the similarly-themed American Flyers, despite a few strong performances and the deft directorial hand of John Badham (War Games, Blue Thunder), doesn’t even come close to the knowing heart and sincere inspiration of the earlier film. (Tesich also penned films like Four Friends and The World According to Garp before dying too young at 54.)
While Breaking Away used bike-racing as a clear metaphor for life’s successes and the desire to ‘break away’ from a dead-end life, American Flyers seems to be about bike-racing as metaphor for the importance of family. Either way, the flick ends up with a fantastic race with one hero bleeding from his nose and another dramatically toting his bicycle across the finish line. (I won’t tell you who wins, but this IS an American sports flick, so you do the math.)
This one may be nothing entirely new, but it’s clear that the screenwriter has a sincere admiration for this generally overlooked sport, and his earnest portrayal of a bare-bones competition manages to keep things interesting. (In other words, the movie’s not as boring as one would expect from a “bike-racing movie”.)
Once you get past the novelty of seeing Kevin Costner looking so youthful, you’ll be surprised at the depth of this early performance. Most of the cast is a mixed bag, though Alexandra Paul (as a conveniently comely hitchhiker) and Luca Bercovici (as the wholly nasty villain) offer a few memorable moments.On the whole, this one seems like a collection of concepts and ideas wisely left out of Breaking Away, and while it’s not a wholly successful flick in its own right, there are certainly worse ways to spend 100 minutes - particularly if you’re a bicycling enthusiast.