Feb 1, 2021
Megaforce (1982): a recap (part 5 of 6)
Last time on Megaforce: Asses were kicked, names were taken. Then Guerrera popped out of a Red Cross chopper, and it didn’t look like he was there to render first aid.
Before we get into it, you might be wondering why somebody just doesn’t shoot Guerrera right then and there, or at the very least arrest him. It’s the Red Cross chopper. Part of the Red Cross mission statement is “to act as a neutral intermediary between warring parties”, so if Ace and Company get frisky, then it becomes an international incident. So yeah, no plot hole to see here. But don’t worry, just like driving on a Michigan freeway, we’re bound to hit one sooner or later.
El Commandante cries out, “Ace!” with what appears to be real joy, and Hunter shouts back, “Duke!” with equal enthusiasm. So the principle characters are named Ace Hunter and Duke Guerrera. Maxwell Grant, pulp writer and creator of the Shadow would be proud. The two fall into a fierce embrace; a little more passion and I’d expect one to sweep the other off their feet like it was VJ Day all over again.
Zach asks Dallas if Hunter’s putting them on, and he’s got this incredulous look on his face like enemy generals dropping out of the sky to try and sweep the boss off his feet is something you don’t see every day. I know, crazy, right? Dallas just grins and shakes his head in response. Hey, I’ve seen Deliverance, and I know all about Brokeback Mountain. There’s a reason why one of the Village People was a cowboy; if anybody gets what’s going on between “Ace” and “Duke”, it’s the hillbilly.
Guerrera says his feelings are hurt; Ace blew through town without calling and Hunter responds that he left him a message. Yeah, I’d say leaving behind millions of dollars and burning tanks and streets running red with blood is one helluva message. Guerrera grins and says, “Funny!” and you know even though Guerrera thinks of those guys as expendable and his employers paid for those tanks, you’d assume he’d be a little mad that somebody made him look like an idiot. Hmm, it’s almost as if he knows something Hunter doesn’t. Guerrera says, “Ace, you were always a card!” And Hunter replies, “And Duke, you were always a prince.” Somehow, one face palm isn’t enough.
Guerrera pauses to admire Hunter’s outfit, and notes how chic it looks. He especially seems to like how easily it unzips. I’m looking Guerrera salivating as he looks at Ace’s crotch…
…and I’m reminded that another member of the Village People is an Army soldier.
I’m starting to really wonder about what went on during those 18 months when these guys served together.
Guerrera tries to light his cigar with a lighter and it’s not working; it wasn’t working earlier after the attack, and I wonder why he bothers with it. Hunter lights Duke’s cigar for him and snatches his hand, and he sees what’s in it.
It’s the lighter. Hunter looks all hurt and accuses Guerrera of stealing it, but Guerrera claims Hunter was so drunk he forgot he gave it to him. Hunter denies it and says he loaned it to him. Just when it looks like it might turn ugly, Hunter says he knows Guerrera just forgot to give it back, and Hunter lets him keep it. Just before the pair are about to hug and kiss, the General and Zara show up. Guerrera says he always wanted to meet the man. You mean you wanted to meet the man personally? Because you sure as hell haven’t been wanting to meet his army. Then again, Guerrera isn’t being paid to fight battles; he’s being paid to blow shit up. The General and Zara come out of the helicopter, and you know I’m starting to wonder something about the wardrobe choices the costume designer came up with.
Were ascots a fashion accessory in the ’80s that I somehow missed? It seems like something a preppy might wear with his popped collar polo shirt, but for the life of me I don’t think I ever saw somebody wear one in real life. So Guerrera spots Zara, and Hunter explains who she is, and the mercenary compares her to thoroughbreds and talks about bloodlines. Oh hey, looks like Ace and Duke have more in common than their well-groomed beards: they’re both sexist pricks! But of course, Ace is going to stand up for his lady love, and he’s going to punch Duke in the face and make him eat that cig—
Oh. He does nothing. Well, okay, then…
The General is ecstatic that Hunter has apparently captured Guerrera, but Hunter ruffles his ascot when he explains Guerrera is “just visiting”. The General wants to talk to Hunter privately, but Guerrera politely tells the man that if the General doesn’t tell Hunter then he will, and he’s got this grin on his face that says he’s really hoping the “modern major general” chickens out. The General looks like someone told him his morning tea was laced with arsenic, but he manages to power through. The General explains that Hunter did his job “too well”, and that what he did can be considered a blatant act of war. Uh… yeah, I can’t see what Hunter did as anything less than a blatant act of war; that’s why you hired him, to act blatantly war-like and get Guerrera to do something stupid as a result. Only now if Hunter crosses the border, war will be all official-like between the two countries.
Previously, a reader posted: “I’m looking forward to the next chapter because maybe you’ll be able to explain just what the hell happened to set up the climax.” And I thought, no problem. I’m sure I can, with a little thought, a touch of effort, and a shot of tequila, decipher the Gordian Knot of a plot that Hal Needham tied together regarding the setup for the film’s final act. A bottle of Jose Cuervo later, and I think I understand what’s going on.
Okay… So, the General was ordered not to cross the border in the first act to go after Guerrera, presumably because it would have been an act of war. Okay, fair enough; it sets up Hunter’s plan, which was to trick Guerrera into following Megaforce across the border (and to be fair, I think Hook, Line, and Sinker is still a good plan; it only has a few moving parts and the best plans are simple ones). All of this implies that war needs to be avoided at all costs, but Guerrera needs to be stopped. Why does war need to be avoided at all costs?
I don’t know.
I mean, really, you have an aggressor violating your border, endangering your citizens, destroying your infrastructure, and therefore crippling your economy. The more he does it, the bolder he gets, and the more demoralized your army and citizenry get. I’ve never served, so I know any discussion regarding military action is arrogant civilian speculation, but it seems to me if a diplomatic solution isn’t viable, you either 1) capitulate like Neville Chamberlain and delude yourself into thinking there’s going to be peace in your time…
…or 2) you use your army to resist the aggressor. All I can think is that all-out war needs to be avoided because the country Guerrera is fighting for has WMDs. They’ve either got poison gas or nukes, and the cost of getting into a pitched all-out conflict with them would be too high. Only, that’s never said. All we get is that Hunter’s been found out and the price of peace is to pretty much screw over 61 men who fought on your behalf, who are either going to die on the battlefield or are going to live out their lives in some prison hellhole, or get humiliated in some public trial and execution. So yeah, Megaforce just became Poland.
I’m sorry, that was a lot of writing and very little funny, but it’s an important element to the movie; everybody’s motivations depend on why Zara’s nation doesn’t dare get into an all-out shooting match with Guerrera’s employers. And Hal does a shitty job of explaining it.
Hunter says to the General that life is like a wheel and it all comes around, and he says it like he’s implying that when—not if, when—he gets out of that desert, he’s going to make the man eat his gun. The General says, “Interesting,” with that stereotypical British reserve that implies that it’s all he can do not to wet his pants. They part ways, and Hunter turns his attention to Zara. She tells him she tried her best, and I believe her. Hunter says he’ll see her tomorrow, and then…
I do kind of wonder what SCUFF is going to do to Zara’s country when they find out they pretty much sold out their people. Does Zara’s country go from the friends list to the enemies list? I mean, this is a short term solution; long term they’re screwed, aren’t they? Guerrera is just going to blow up more models tomorrow until the government falls. Better to die on your feet than on your knees, and all that.
Guerrera waits until after the teary parting, then as they walk to the Red Cross chopper, he explains Hunter’s position. The Gambian army (I think that’s the first time the country’s name has been mentioned. Would have been nice if they had mentioned it sooner. Just sayin’) is coming. The country’s official army, that is, not Guerrera’s mercs, and they’ll be here in about an hour. If Hunter can’t cross the border, then there’s only one place his planes can land and that’s a nearby dry lake bed. And Guerrera’s tanks are there now. Guerrera says for old times’ sake that if Hunter’s men lay down their arms, then he’ll take them in. Hunter looks in the chopper…
…and says “Not enough seats.” Guerrera looks disappointed, both because his friend doesn’t seem to trust him enough to take him up on the offer, and probably too because of the lame joke. He says Hunter’s almost as good a commander as him, but he’s an idealist and it’s too expensive to be one these days. Yeah, that’s it, Guerrera, blame your moral worldview on Reaganomics. Guerrera leaves and things look bad, but Hunter has just enough time for one more heroic pose.
Back in the States, Egg has some interesting information he sends along to the team. Hunter reads it and he gathers the men to share the data and his plan.
Hunter says they’ve got two choices. The first is everybody splits up and heads for the border on their own, but Dallas jokingly complains how he’ll get lost if he’s got nobody to follow. At least, I think he’s joking. Everybody is laughing, but it’s more like “We know, Dallas” laughter than if he actually said something funny. There might be a reason why Zach was driving the SUV in act one. Anyway, the gang doesn’t seem to think a whole lot of that plan, so Hunter shows them a thermal topographical map of the dry lake bed that Egg provided them.
He says the dry lake bed is surrounded on three sides by mountains, and Guerrera has placed his forces with their backs to them, so the tanks can blow the shit out of Hunter’s people and the C-130s. However, Egg has used thermal imagery on the area and found a small trail leading through the mountains behind Guerrera.
The plan is to run silent (the buggies, bikes, and Winnebego are apparently hybrids. I knew the Big Three auto companies were holding the electric car down!), blow through Guerrera, and make a run for the transports. Like Hook, Line, and Sinker, I really don’t have a problem with this plan. Yes, the idea that Guerrera is unaware of the trail might seem unlikely, but the man has been more concerned with the terrain of the neighboring country than his employer’s country, and it’s not like he’s got satellite imagery going, so I can buy he’s working blind here. Hunter says, “That’s the way it is,” which is the movie’s catchphrase. Frankly, I’ll take it over thumb kissing any day.
Miles away, the Red Cross chopper arrives at the dry lake bed…
…and I’m wondering what the conversation between the pilot and Guerrera must have been like on the way:
Pilot: So, uh, you’re a mercenary.
Pilot: So… you kill people for money?
Guerrera: Yeah, pretty much. I’m also paid to blow up buildings and force people to listen to Communist propaganda.
Gurrera: Not that I’m a Communist; I firmly believe in a free market economy. But I don’t discriminate; as long as the check clears, I’m good.
Gurrera: Yeah, after this battle and painting the desert with my old Army buddy’s blood, it’ll be R & R time. I’ll head to the French Riviera and blow my cash on high class prostitutes and cheap booze. I might even catch a movie; I hear Stark Trek Two is pretty good. Oh, hey, there are my tanks, you can drop me off here. Thanks for the trip. Oh, and if we meet again, it probably means I’m bleeding to death and your medivac-ing me to a hospital… So, yeah, I hope we never meet again.
While Megaforce is taking to the trail, Guerrera gets a report that Hunter’s base has been evacuated, and there are no reports of border activity. His man asks where they could be, and Duke nervously scans the mountain range. He stands there and it’s obvious he’s worried and is perhaps second guessing himself. The C-130s are flying in low under radar, and Megaforce switches to silent running. Megaforce reaches the lake bed…
…and if you live in Nevada, please tell me whether or not the mountains look that freaking weird or if I’m looking at the return of Introvision. Hunter gets on the horn with the pilots and tells them the plan, which is that the C-130s will decoy Guerrera long enough for the bikes ‘n buggies to get onto the lake bed undetected. Then the planes will stay for only two minutes to allow for the evacuation. It’s pretty shitty plan, but all things considered, there ain’t much choice. All the same, when this is over Hunter’s going to owe those C-130 crews all the beer in the world. Seriously, those guys had better never pay for another drink for the rest of their lives. Bikers and… um… buggiers check their weapons a final time. And Dallas prepares the most important part of his ride.
In his tank, Guerrera looks nervous, because Ace has gotten one on him already, and for all he knows, the man is ready to do it again. And then he spots the C-130s and he grins, thinking he knows what’s going on. While he prepares to have his tanks blow the C-130s out of the sky, we get set for the final showdown.
Next time: The final installment, and the final battle.