Aces! Iron Eagle 3 (1992)

Aces! Iron Eagle 3

Aces! Iron Eagle 3

Iron Eagle 3 is the best movie ever. Oh sure, Iron Eagle 1 was fun. Oh sure, Iron Eagle 2 sucked more than any movie had dared suck before. But Iron Eagle 3 is the ultimate perfection of this franchise. This came out the same year as the disappointing Terminator 2, which suffered badly in the comparison.

The first thing that makes this movie awesome is Nazis. Could there be a more perfect set of villains? They are crazy, evil, and there isn’t anyone in the world that doesn’t want to see them blow up. Even Nazis hate other Nazis (they think of them as losers.) And this one has not just any Nazi, but Belloq himself, having gotten over that whole face-melting thing from Raiders of the Lost Ark and retired to Peru. Okay, maybe it isn’t actually Belloq, and he was French (earning even more villain points), but it’s the same guy playing him so I shall call him Belloq.

The second thing that makes this movie awesome is Peru. In this particular case, Peru is the Arizona desert, not very far away from my house. In fact my dad’s office in downtown Tucson got dressed up to be part of Belloq’s secret base. Peru, as you might expect, is a barren land filled with Mexican peasants from a 60’s Spaghetti Western. It has a mighty Airforce of two vintage 1950’s planes, and is run by Nazis and drugrunners, who have enslaved the aforementioned peasants. Oh, Peru, how the mighty have fallen!

“In our day it used to be the man…not the machine.” – Various characters at various times.

The third and most notable thing that makes this movie awesome is Rachel McLish. She’s tall. She’s musclebound. She’s…a Peruvian peasant who was sent to college on an athletic scholarship. And her village is in trouble! Now you might think that a female body building champion might not be a great actress, but let me assure you that it totally doesn’t matter. Like John Wayne and Arnold she transcends acting and just simply is.

Since this is an Iron Eagle movie, Chappy is here, pushing the envelope as usual. Somehow he’s managed to get a job flying a P-38 Lightning in some kind of airshow. He playfully dogfights against other pilots who apparently were actually in World War 2…I’m not sure if Chappy was supposed to be a World War 2 veteran or not. Anyway, there’s a crazy German guy flying the same plane that Germans would fly in most American movies of the time, a crazy British guy, and representing Japan: the Streetfighter! Sonny Chiba himself, flying the same plane that Japanese would fly in most American movies of the time. They shoot paintballs at each other and barnstorm, proving that World War 2 was actually the precursor to Xtreme Sports.

Chappy’s young protege from one movie or the other gets shot down over…Peru! Evil Nazi druglords have basically taken over the whole country, and are now shooting down innocent F-16’s doing potentially illegal fly-overs to see if the local peasants have been enslaved again. Maaaaveriiiiick! Chappy suspects foul-play, and it turns out that it is a conspiracy between the Nazis and an Air Force General to ship drugs through American airbases! In a less cool movie I might think this was a metaphor for something.

“My legs! I can’t feel my legs!” – Tee Vee, after flying to Peru in a bit of luggage.

Chappy investigates, and finds Rachel McLish in South Tucson…or maybe it’s supposed to be Los Angeles, I forget. Anyway, somebody is trying to kill her or something, although they realize belatedly that this senorita could kick them in the cojones so hard that their heads would fall off. (Which she then does.) Hijinks ensue, and Rachel is dragged back to her Peruvian village in chains. Mmm, chains.

Chappy can’t get behind that. He’s gotta push the envelope. He taps a friend who is a little more in the Air Force than he is and has him steal, er…requisition, tons of military grade weaponry. The plan: outfit the World War 2 fighters with said munitions, fly down to Peru and do…something! The German is down because he hates Nazis. Oh, and Belloq might be his brother or something. The Brit is down because, well, he’s Brittish. Of course he’s gonna go blow up some Nazis. Peruvians too! Anything really. Streetfighter isn’t quite so certain. You see even though he’s killed a million men or more with his bare hands, it turns out he hasn’t actually killed anyone at all with a plane. His brother was a kamikaze, he’s just pretending to be a pilot to log some frequent flier miles in a zero or something. At the last minute the music swells and he decides he’s gonna fly that plane and probably die, because he’s Japanese and that’s what a real Kamikaze would do!

Now the movie kicks from high gear into a whole new gear called ‘kick ass!’ Rachel McLish, now in a cut up t-shirt and showing off pecs and biceps that make me feel funny, gets tortured, busts loose, and starts killing some Nazis. She’s all lubed up and firing heavy machineguns. There’s neck snapping, crotch pounding, wrestling, and anything else you’d really want a half naked Amazon to engage in.

Meanwhile Chappy and friends have hit a little snag…the Peruvian Airforce! The Nazis cruelly manipulate them into trying to protect their borders against a squadron of armed invaders. Needless to say the hardened veterans blast the sad old technology out of the sky with their sadder, older technology and mad skills. The high point comes when the Brit, suffering a bad case of missle lock, hurls a roll of tinfoil out of his cockpit because Chappy’s friend was caught and possibly sentanced to death for treason before he could finish outfitting their craft.

After that the heroes reach the village, and proceed to blow the holy hell out of everything that moves. Rachel leads the charge on the ground. The Peruvian Nazi Druglords are not completely unprepared though. They have planes and equipment of their own, and soon the Brit has been shot down, and the Streetfighter has fulfilled his destiny by crashing into something yelling “BANZAI!” Belloq has a super World War 2 jet fighter, and shoots down the other German guy. Before he can go the extra mile for evil and shoot down the parachuting pilot, Chappy flies in with his Lightning and pushes the envelope.

“What you smell is in your pants. Take a whiff of this!” – Chappy adds some insult to injury as he shoots down Belloq.

Now a movie like this wouldn’t be complete without a bit of ironic punishment, and here’s where Aces comes through in the biggest way. Belloq parachutes to safety, but is ensnared in one of his own deadly booby traps while Rachel McLish looks on. But most spectacularly, a Peruvian drug lord is threatening to blow up…a small church! Surely God won’t let something like that slide. As the church detonates the church bell wings slowly through the air, end over end, until it truimphantly and hilariously decapitates the drug lord. Take that, God just pwned you, bitch!

Then the DEA shows up to prove that they don’t completely suck. They round up Nazis and somewhere in there I think the peasant slaves are freed. Peru just gets real quiet and hopes all these crazy people will leave. America isn’t blamed since it was a multinational task force of psychotic pilots. People pretend to feel bad about the dead Streetfighter for a minute, and maybe some of the other characters who may or may not have died when we weren’t paying attention. Then they all dress up like cowboys because they are in Tucson and eat some cake, and laugh heartily about Nazis well slayed.

So in the end this is an introspective movie. A movie about aging, and the struggle against the idea of becoming obsolete. It has a lot to say about the Gulf War, and about honesty, and about life in the ghetto. You probably didn’t see any of that because you were staring at Rachel McLish. When a movie is like that, we call it multi-layered. But any way you slice it, I call this movie brilliant.

About the Author

Stark Raving Reviewer Darrell Hayhurst is an acclaimed game designer, best known for the Origin-nominated WWII pulp-sci fi space combat hit "Hard Vacuum" released in 2000 and the follow-up expansion “Hard Vacuum: Science Gone Mad” in 2001 and the “Hard Vacuum: War’s End” three-parter, "Bright Sun Ascending!", "The Highest Ground!" and "Red Rockets Rising!" in 2004.