Picks and Pans Review: Steal the Sky

updated 08/29/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/29/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

HBO (Sun., Aug. 28, 9 p.m. ET)

B

Now here's a B snatched from the jaws of an F. At the start, in its first few scenes, this thing looks so low-budget that it wouldn't move at a Hollywood flea market. It's 1966 in the Middle East, and guys in fezzes are playing Love Is a Many Splendored Thing at a party where Arab jet jockeys are chatting in their own charming brand of English: "Get off my buttocks!... You are dancing beautiful. Like silver.... Oh, you American womans." The womans is the movie's star, Mariel (Amerika) Hemingway, who is smooth and lovely until she speaks. Like Brooke Shields, she is cursed with a sparrow's voice in a swan's body. At the start, Hemingway delivers by far the best acting on the screen. Uh-oh. That's trouble. Yet things soon pick up because (1) Hemingway tries hard, (2) Hemingway has a competent co-star in Ben (Chariots of Fire) Cross and (3) their show has a thrilling plot. She plays a spy hired by Israel to seduce an Iraqi pilot (Cross) and blackmail him into stealing a MiG jet for Israeli intelligence—a plot inspired by a true story. At the end, lots of exciting tales and chases converge: a coup; Cross racing to get his jet off the ground ahead of bad guys with guns; Hemingway racing to save Cross's family from more bad guys with guns; a supersonic chase scene; a tragic love story. Cross and his family aren't the only ones rescued here. The whole movie is saved just in the nick of time.

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