Costner's Cycling Flyer
Cycling movies are not a common commodity but "American Flyers" released in 1985 and starring Kevin Costner is one of the most well known. Unlike most sports based movies "American Flyers" is not so much a movie about winning against the odds but more about the relationship between a broken family, using cycling as a common bond between two brothers. This gives the movie a different feel with the emphasis on the characters rather than the actual cycling, but not ignoring it all together and using the scenes of cycling to provide much entertainment and interest in what could have been quite a flat cycling movie.
Sports physician, and ex cycling champion, Marcus (Kevin Costner - Silverado) persuades his disillusioned and neurotic younger brother, David (David Marshall Grant - The Devil Wears Prada), to train with him so that they can an enter a cycling race "The King of The Hills"; as a team, and put aside all the family feuding which had kept them apart for many years. What he doesn't tell his younger brother is that he is suffering a serious brain tumour, which could kill him at any point, the same thing that killed their father and part of the reason why the family fell apart.
As someone who once enjoyed cycling, movies based on the sport are quite a rare thing but in "American Flyers" you have a reasonable movie which combines the world of cycling with a slightly emotional storyline surrounding a feuding family. The balance between the two aspects works well as although the storyline surrounding Marcus and David is interesting, it is a bit weak, so the interjection of the cycling helps perk it up when it looks like it is going to slump. Adding to the mix of storylines and also giving the movie a nice light hearted feel is a romance between David and a hitchhiker played by Alexandra Paul as well as Marcus's friend Dr. Conrad and his very unfit son Randolph.
When it comes to the actual cycling director John Badham has done a good job of both illustrating the fun side as well as competitive side of the sport whilst also capturing the beautiful backdrop of the hills during the race scenes. The blend between giving us an insight into professional racing, such as various tactics whilst injecting the action of the races works beautifully making "American Flyers" one of those movies which makes you want to get out there on your bike.
As for the performances, well a young Kevin Costner puts in a believable performance as a professional cyclist, if you can get past his funny moustache and being scarily thin, this was made just 2 years before he appeared in "The Untouchables" and the difference in acting ability is plain to see. Along side Costner is David Marshal Grant who makes a decent attempt at playing the slightly quirky younger brother who enjoys cycling. But Grant seems to struggle when it comes to the more serious side of "American Flyers" when the drama increases his performance feels a little immature.
There are also reasonable supporting performances from Alexandra Paul and Rae Dawn Chong both playing love interests. And there is also an amusing performance from John Amos as Dr. Conrad who tries in vane to encourage his son Randolph to take up a sport. Honestly the acting is adequate through out with reasonable performances from the main stars but nothing really special especially when you compare these performances to the later stuff that the cast went on to do.
What this all boils down to is that as a cycling movie "American Flyers" is enjoyable as well as being quite memorable, not just for Kevin Costner's silly looking moustache. The balance of drama on and off the bikes help to make what is essentially a weak storyline much more interesting and the actual action of the cycling is engrossing. There are other more refined cycling movies but "American Flyers" is certainly worth watching if you enjoy the sport and is not that bad considering that it is an 80's movie.