Bird on a Wire (film)

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Bird on a Wire
Bird on a wire poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn Badham
Produced byRob Cohen
Written by
Music byHans Zimmer
CinematographyRobert Primes
Edited by
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • May 18, 1990 (1990-05-18)
Running time
110 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$20 million
Box office$138,697,012

Bird on a Wire is a 1990 American action comedy film starring Mel Gibson and Goldie Hawn, directed by John Badham, and shot mainly in British Columbia, Canada.[1] The title refers to the Leonard Cohen song "Bird on the Wire". The alley motorcycle chase scene was filmed in Victoria's Chinatown, in Fan Tan Alley.


Marianne Graves (Goldie Hawn) is a successful lawyer completing a business deal in Detroit, Michigan. At a gas station, she crosses paths with a man that looks suspiciously like her ex-fiancé, Rick Jarmin (Mel Gibson), who had disappeared 15 years previously and was presumed dead. The man feigns ignorance and Marianne leaves; he later makes a call saying that he has been recognized and needs to be moved. Rick had helped convict a drug-dealing DEA agent named Eugene Sorenson (David Carradine) and was placed in the witness protection program. Unfortunately, his old handler has retired and his new handler, Joe Weyburn (Stephen Tobolowsky), is a corrupt FBI agent working with Sorenson.

Sorenson is released from prison after serving his sentence; his partner, Albert "Diggs" Diggins (Bill Duke), picks him up and they set out to kill Rick for revenge and to smooth the passage of their latest deal with drug dealers. Marianne returns to confront Rick just as Sorenson and Diggs show up at the gas station with guns blazing. During the gunfight, Rick gets buckshot in his buttocks and his kindly old boss is killed. Marianne escapes with Rick, but Sorenson and Diggs pin the boss' murder on Rick. They are forced to go on the run as Weyburn wipes out Rick's file and sends police to catch them.

To clear their names, Rick needs to reach his old handler. They use contacts from Rick's former life-in-hiding, including a beauty salon where he was a star employee, and an old flame of a veterinarian that removes the buckshot.

During a night spent in a hotel room, Rick tells Marianne everything that happened 15 years ago. They share their feelings and have passionate sex.

They reach the home of his old handler and find out he has Alzheimer's disease, and thus doesn't remember Rick. Sorenson, Diggs and Weyburn show up, so Rick and Marianne retreat to a nearby zoo where Rick had worked. He releases animals from their cages to assist in their defense, and all three men are killed in various ways by the animals. Wounded, Rick winds up suspended over a tiger in a pit, requiring Marianne to save him. Not quite able to reach him, he offers her the extra incentive of marriage and children, which does the trick. They are then seen boating into the sunset in the Caribbean.



Bird on a Wire gained a mixed to negative reception.[2][3][4][5] The film holds a 32% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 22 reviews.

Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.[6]

Box office[edit]

Bird on a Wire debuted at #1 at the box office with $15.3 million[7] and went on to gross over $138.6 million worldwide.


The mystery video game Telling Lies published by Annapurna Interactive and developed by Sam Barlow (game designer) has segment where the main character watches and re-enacts some of dialogue from the beginning of the film. The game shares many plot points with the movie.


  1. ^ Thompson-Nicola Film Commission Archived 2007-07-07 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ "Bird on a Wire". Variety. 1989-12-31. Retrieved 2010-11-16.
  3. ^ "Bird on a Wire". Washington Post. 1990-05-18. Retrieved 2010-11-16.
  4. ^ "Bird on a Wire". Entertainment Weekly. 1990-05-18. Retrieved 2010-11-16.
  5. ^ "Bird on a Wire". Chicago Sun Times. Retrieved 2010-11-16.
  6. ^ "CinemaScore".
  7. ^

External links[edit]