By Leah Rozen
December 10, 2001 12:00 PM

Gene Hackman, Owen Wilson

It would not be inappropriate to bring an American flag along to Behind Enemy Lines. The movie’s hyperbolic climax, in which American troops use Rambo-worthy force to rescue a lone Navy flier downed in hostile Bosnia, provides ample opportunity to wave Old Glory (though the folks behind you might find it a little distracting).

Up until that point, Lines is a better than average movie, combining superior action scenes (such as one that puts a viewer into a plane’s ejection seat) with strong performances by Hackman and Wilson, who plays Lt. Burnett, a Navy navigator whose plane is shot down during a routine NATO surveillance flight. Burnett spends much of the movie desperately trying to outrun Serbian troops and an enemy sniper who are pursuing him. Meanwhile, his naval commander (Hackman) battles NATO higher-ups reluctant to grant him permission to rescue his flier.

Director John Moore, making his debut, shows considerable talent. Wilson (Shanghai Noon), a hipster in uniform, continues to impress as a possible heir to Jack Nicholson, while Hackman brings an appropriately rueful weariness to his role. (PG-13)

Bottom Line: No medals, but does its duty