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
Written by
Produced byRob Cohen
CinematographyRobert Primes
Edited by
Music byHans Zimmer
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • May 18, 1990 (1990-05-18)
Running time
110 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$20 million
Box office$138.7 million

Bird on a Wire is a 1990 American action comedy film directed by John Badham and starring Mel Gibson and Goldie Hawn. It was 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 "Muffie" Graves (Goldie Hawn), a former hippie, is a successful lawyer completing a business deal in Detroit, Michigan. At a gas station, she crosses paths with a man that looks and sounds exactly like her hippie ex-fiancé, Rick Jarmin (Mel Gibson), who disappeared in a plane crash 15 years previously and is presumed dead. The man pretends to be a Vietnam War veteran and Marianne apologizes, says that Rick would never have served in that war, and then leaves. The terrified man then makes a call saying that he has been recognized and needs to be moved.

15 years earlier, Rick testified against a murderous drug-smuggling DEA agent named Eugene Sorenson (David Carradine) and has been in the witness protection program ever since. Unfortunately, his old handler has retired and his new handler, FBI agent Joe Weyburn (Stephen Tobolowsky), is being blackmailed into colluding with Sorenson. Promising to have Rick moved immediately, Weyburn writes down the gas station's address and leaks it to Sorenson.

Meanwhile, Sorenson has been released on parole; 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 new dealings with the Colombian drug cartels.

Marianne returns to confront Rick just as Diggs and Sorenson show up at the gas station with shotguns 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 gas station owner's 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 at a beauty salon where he was pretending to be an effeminate gay man and was the star hair dresser, and an old flame, a veterinarian who 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 once 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. When she is 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 against a $20 million budget. It is considered a box office success.


  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". The 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]