Saturday, April 02, 2005

Review: Firebird 2015 A.D. (1981)


The year is 2015. Because of a worldwide oil shortage the President has made it illegal for private citizens to operate gas-powered vehicles. This rather unpopular law is enforced by the agents of the DVC (Department of Vehicle Control) who make their patrols with dirt bikes and M-16s. The DVC officers are searching for "burners" - rebel citizens who refuse to give in to the anti-car laws. One such burner is Red (Darren McGaven), a grizzled old malcontent who drives the titular Firebird - a car the DVC are desperate to catch.

Red's estranged son Cam has come out to the desert where his dad is holed up with his stash of old air filters and bottles of Gum-Out. The two have a flat, emotion-free reunion and Red explains the joys of illegal driving to Cam. They meet up with fellow burner Indy and his gearhead daughter Jill. Jill initiates Cam into the world of driving, and later, the world of sex. The DVC goons discover the post-coital couple, beat up Cam and take Jill prisoner, hoping she will divulge the location of the Firebird.

Cam, Red, and Indy mount a rescue operation and confuse the heck out of the five DVC troopers guarding Jill, who either get run over or accidentally shoot each other. Cam and Jill drive the Firebird into the sunset on a mission to transport a Senator to Washington so that he may fight for the rights of those with huge, gas-guzzling hotrods.


This film has a real old-school Republican feel to it. Private citizens taking back their rights from a government out of control. These are real heroes, fighting for their freedom. Admittedly, the only thing they want to do with their freedom is to take their muscle cars into the desert and leak oil and transmission fluid all over the wildlife, but hey - freedom is freedom.

Based on the quality of the DVC recruits, though, you don't get the impression that the burners are much of a national crisis. These appear to be the people who were rejected from every other branch of law enforcement. The only member of the squad who isn't either mentally unstable or completely incompetent turns out to be a burner sympathizer. The prime nut case of the group is a guy named Dolan (Alex Diakun). A supposed Native American, he fancies putting on a loincloth and shooting at burners with a rocket launcher. There is a very trippy scene in which Dolan sits on a high cliff, rolls his eyes into the back of his head and screams for about five minutes. (Is this what white people think Native Americans do?)

All of the DVC troopers appear to have serious cases of "bad-guy aim." Maybe an M-16 is harder to aim than it looks, but Red and his burner buddies drive so close that the DVC guys could just take the bullets out of the guns and throw them at the cars. Evidently Red and co. know about their enemies' poor marksmanship because whenever they come under fire they don't try to drive away; they just spin doughnuts until the DVC guys give up.

I found this to be one of those movies that feels like it's building up to something exciting, but then that exciting thing never happens. The dangerous mission to get the Senator to Washington is mentioned but the film ends before it takes place. The small amount of actual plot is padded with scene after scene of filler. Even worse, the filler is frequently set to migraine-inducing country rock songs written specifically for this film, including "Dee Vee Cee" and "Drivin' for Our Freedom." I can only watch so many musical montages of old guys racing their hulking '70's cars around the desert before I start to reach for the suicide blade.

The one thing that did get my attention was the character of Jill (played by Mary Beth Rubens.) Not only was she was handy with cars, but every other line she spoke was some kind of double entendre. And she had a LOT of lines. She goes after the golden retriever-like Cam with the determination of someone who doesn't run into many guys who don't have prostate trouble. I felt like I needed a shower after watching her demonstrate the use of the stick-shifter.

Final Analysis

Despite the guilty pleasure of Jill's driving instruction, Firebird 2015 A.D. really hurts. Like the desert in which it was filmed, this movie seems to stretch on forever. It was made in 1981 but it still had the sleazy coating of the 70's clinging to it, and whoever thought the heroes should be unappealing senior citizens needs to be punched in the kidneys. Not recommended for the crap-movie novice; proceed with caution.


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