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Bird on a Wire

Kino // PG-13 // September 21, 2021
List Price: $24.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Ryan Keefer | posted November 23, 2021 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

For as grumpy an old man I get about Marvel films coming out once a year seemingly in perpetuity, it's dawning on me more and more that when I was a kid the behavior was just as rampant in films, albeit it a different genre. Take a look from (roughly) 1985 to 1994. The pitch for a film was similar in varying degrees (buddy cop, road movie, etc.), but switched to leads of opposite genders, reluctant to get together or reunite for the trouble it would bring. Maybe Mr. Mister or Simply Red would contribute a song of the times to further date the feature. But casting at that point was a venerable Mad Libs; get recognizable name next to other recognizable name, maybe make them a man and woman, and people will flock to it!

Which brings us to Bird on a Wire. The 1990 film directed by John Badham (Stakeout) stars Mel Gibson (Braveheart) as Rick, who is in the FBI's Witness Protection Program following his testimony against an FBI agent (played by David Carradine, Kill Bill) who had been dealing drugs. By accident, or perhaps by chance! He runs into Marianne (Goldie Hawn, Overboard), whom he had a relationship with. Fearing that his cover is blown he scrambles for help before the agent, now released from jail, comes looking for him. Realizing he has few places to turn, he looks to Marianne. Hijinks abound!

Way back in 1990, Mel was capitalizing on box office charisma, and had the nice fallback trait of being devastatingly handsome to boot. So somebody, somewhere thought to focus on that and little else when it came to greenlighting Bird on a Wire, the resulting 110 minutes of which include shots of Mel's "assets" being tended to by Rachel (Joan Severance, Overboard), who also was an old flame of Rick's who is a veterinarian now, or shots of him dodging bullets from Carradine and Bill Duke (Overboard), who is a friend of Carradine's in the film.

Just what is it that Rick and Marianne are avoiding in Bird on a Wire? I dunno. Gangsters, drugs, crooked Feds. Just like the casting, the antagonists in films during this era were ominous but mostly anonymous in the end. You wouldn't want to be a bad guy during this time either if Goldie Hawn was kicking your ass either, but I digress. The dread of the bad guys is smeared thick early on, we check in on them periodically through the second act, and they put up a tough but conquerable fa├žade in act three, like most any movie bad guys do. Gibson and Hawn are okay, even having a better chemistry than you would imagine, and doing what is expected of them in a script that is unremarkable.

Bird on a Wire doesn't separate itself from the large pack of films from this time that put opposite protagonists against one another and having them unite against a larger foe, the fact that it's Mel Gibson and Goldie Hawn doing it against the backdrop of various plot devices and cringeworthy moments (man, that hairdresser scene does NOT hold up) puts it firmly in 1990 with little evolution from it. Seeing the two together onscreen together is one of those things when a sport has a final score that's never happened before; it's quick and forgettable.

The Blu-ray:
The Video:

Kino has given Bird on a Wire a new master from a 2K scan of the interpositive, and the 2.35:1 high-definition presentation of the film is pretty good. Darker moments in the film either in exteriors or in interiors (where a federal agent is looking up names on a computer) appear natural and present a decent contrast in them. Brighter moments reproduce colors accurately without oversaturation, flesh tones are natural and warm and film grain is present throughout the film. Kino's definitely found their niche and working well in it.

The Sound:

DTS-HD Master Audio two-channel for the film which given the time of production may not be much of a surprise? Dialogue sounds good and consistent, and the gunfire sounds perfectly foleyed. The gun battles and miscellaneous explosions could have used some low end to boost things but you aren't missing anything with them not in the mix, for what this is the soundtrack is fine.


Aside from the trailer the other extra is a commentary with Badham, producer/second unit director Rob Cohen and film historian/filmmaker Daniel Kremer. It's a jocular track, with Badham and Cohen recalling original/excised story ideas and lines from the movie, casting choices that didn't come up (and telling stories about those who did appear in the film), and spotting various trivia in the scenes as they watch it. Badham and Cohen have been around for a while and their recall about this film is impressive, the track makes the film better if you haven't seen it before.

Final Thoughts:

You know how some movies you can leave on in the background because they're enjoyable to have on and come back to? Bird on a Wire is a film that if you leave it on and come back to it, makes you question your decision-making when you come across most any scene in the film after Mel and Goldie meet up. Technically, the transfer is nice and the commentary is a nice surprise, but you'd have to be hard pressed to want to check this thing out.

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