The role of cheeky cop Carey Mahoney in the first four Police Academy movies made Steve Guttenberg an icon, forever associated with comical roles, he's the last person you’d expect to see in a straight action movie.
The producers of Canadian thriller Airborne obviously felt differently, choosing the actor to headline their low budget effort back in 1998.
Perhaps understandably fed up of being typecast in bland nice guy roles, Guttenberg stopped grinning and started scowling.
Having established himself in the 1980s with the extremely successful Police Academy (1984), Cocoon (1985) and 3 Men and a Baby (1987), not to mention their sequels, Guttenberg was simply unable to sustain his success into the 1990s.
While fellow funny man Tom Hanks’s star continued to rise beyond the 80s, Guttenberg’s fell and fizzled. Generally cast only in low budget family comedies, playing charming single fathers in films like It Takes Two (1995) and Zeus and Roxanne (1997).
As the big screen roles dried up he continued to find steady work in family films shown on TV and released direct-to-video, such as Casper: A Spirited Beginning (1997), and he’s become a staple of the genre.
But as his 40th birthday approached he attempted to trade those single father roles for the chance to play a tough guy. The opportunity came first with Overdrive (1997), an obscure TV thriller from Roger Corman’s stable that cast Guttenberg as a racecar driver. But it was Airborne, made soon after, that really gave the one-time joker the chance to kick some ass.
Apparently shot for less than three million dollars in Toronto, Airborne is a blatant attempt to imitate blockbuster successes such as The Rock (1996), Face Off (1997), Mission: Impossible (1996). While Guttenberg is miscast, trading in his natural warmth for a cold stare, he does a serviceable job playing gruff, unshaven, scarred special ops soldier Bill McNeill.
This cheap, derivative production got international distribution (the casting of Sean Bean in a villainous supporting role got it noticed here in the UK) but it’s reviews were poor and a return to family flicks and TV work was inevitable.
Guttenberg’s continued to make efforts to find roles in more mature movies, such as the German-made thriller Fatal Rescue (2008) and slasher movie Cornered (2009), but he’s destined to continue to be associated with juvenile fare such as The Gold Retrievers (aka Bosco and Me, 2010).