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American Flyers (Blu-ray Review)

“American Flyers,” Rex Reed wrote, “is a fine mixture of romance, humor, and tears with action sequences among the most exciting ever captured on film. It’s guaranteed to increase the viewer’s adrenalin.” Two-time Academy Award® winner Kevin Costner and David Marshall Grant star in the film written by Breaking Away Oscar® winner Steve Tesich and directed by John Badham (Saturday Night Fever), American Flyers is a dazzling, spirit-soaring spectacle. Warner Archive Collection is brought it to Blu-ray for the very first time on April 12th. It includes the film’s trailer as a bonus feature. You can order the film now by using the paid Amazon Associates link that follows the review at the bottom.

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Film

Two brothers struggle to win a world-class cycling competition — and regain the respect and affection they once shared. The painful events surrounding their father’s death have caused a rift. To bridge the gap, both enter the Hell of the West, a grueling race through the Rocky Mountains. While training and racing together, each confronts the fear that the congenital ailment that struck down their father could suddenly strike one of them.

American Flyers is essentially Breaking Away going the next step. From community race tradition to trying to make it in a more professional setting. Taking the film away from the small town and moving to a more “on the road” narrative takes away a bit of the charm and character that the other Steve Tesich film once had. It isn’t without some laughs and smiles, but Badham’s film is much more drama focused and hits some harder issues with training and the relationship of the brothers.

If it weren’t for the girlfriend characters played by Rae Dawn Chong and Alexandra Paul, the movie would be in danger of being a bit of a slug. In an early role, Kevin Costner sits a bit monotone in his leading role. The characters here deal with hardcore racing, training, medical scares and family trauma that puts this one in a more serious territory despite the joy of racing trying to seep in.

Nonetheless, the racing is quite good and Badham’s work on presenting it rings impressive. There’s good coverage and its pretty easy to follow and has some nice stakes from purely a visual level. The race intensity overall works, setting it apart from the film’s other shortcomings. Its quite different than Breaking Away, too, which is a solid choice to make and set itself apart.

Video

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: American Flyers debuts on Blu-ray with a brand new 2022 HD master. While the image looks rock solid you can definitely see room for improvement with a more involved restoration. Its has a nice clear picture with good texture and details. It feels akin to a decent film print you’d check out at a revival screening.

Depth:  Depth of field is a little above average. Some good spacing, especially in the bike race scenes really open things open and showcase room and scale. Movement is filmic and natural with no issues arising from any rapid motions creating a jitter or blur.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and do a solid job in shadowing or showcasing dark scenes. Grain is a bit more apparent in the darker areas. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: The film’s color palette is an overall more muted look. Things like neon lights, displays and more outlandishly or bold colored come across more striking. However, this relies on looking more “natural” and washed out.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish of the film. Facial features and textures come in better the closer up you get and fair decently in medium shots.

Noise/Artifacts: None

Audio

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: American Flyers carries what I imagine is the original theatrical 2.0 mix. Its a rather solid presentation in terms of its balance and decent effectiveness. The lack of low end stuff makes it a little light where some intensity could add to the experience, but overall its a pretty inoffensive well-presented track.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp.

Extras

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 1:32)

Summary

Whatever magic Breaking Away had falls quite a bit short here in the much more dramatic turn on bicycle racing that is American Flyers. Warner Archive Collection delivers John Badham’s Kevin Costner cycling film to Blu-ray with a solid transfer in sight and sound. Lacking are the extras, where only a trailer is provided. I’m not sure on ownership, this feels more in tune with a film that you check out once and move on. That’s not to say its bad or anything, just that there’s nothing here aching for a return visit unless you are collecting or studying the films of director John Badham.

This is a paid Amazon Associates link

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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