Firefox was Clint Eastwood’s first – and only – attempt to create an effects-driven blockbuster series for himself. Westerns were still in vogue when Eastwood began his acting career in the late ’50s. In fact, he was so depressed over one of his earliest movies Ambush at Cimarron Pass – which he later dubbed the “lousiest” Western ever made – that he considered quitting the business. Eastwood eventually brought through with the Dollars trilogy and thrillers like Dirty Harry.
Throughout much of the ’70s, Eastwood stuck with either Westerns or action thrillers like 1977’s The Gauntlet. Eastwood also tried a Bond-style spy adventure with The Eiger Sanction in 1975, but the landscape of movies started to shift during this decade. The massive success enjoyed by Jaws and Star Wars saw studios moving towards more effects-driven action blockbusters.
Eastwood tried his hand at this with 1982’s Firefox, where he played an American pilot who, despite having issues stemming from PTSD, is chosen as the only one who can steal an experimental Soviet fighter jet. The titular Firefox is undetectable by radar and its weapons systems are controlled by the mind of the pilot. The second half is essentially one long action sequence, where Eastwood’s Gant escapes with the awesome-looking aircraft while pursued by Soviet forces. Firefox is something of an oddity in Eastwood’s filmography as an actor and director, as it’s his only real attempt to make a traditional summer blockbuster with franchise potential.
While Firefox sold itself off a poster with Eastwood posing beside the titular aircraft, an issue with the story is it takes a solid hour for that portion to kick in. The first half details Gant’s gradual infiltration of the Soviet Union as he’s aided by various dissidents and scientists on his road trip towards the Firefox itself. This old-school, Cold War espionage section has its moments of tension, but some viewers find it incredibly slow and tedious so that by the time the Firefox escape kicks in, they’re already disengaged. Complaints about the film’s pacing were so common that Eastwood – who passed on Big Trouble In Little China – later cut 13 minutes out of the first half for the movie’s home video release.