It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
"American Flyers" tells the story of a grueling bicycle race named "The Hell of the West" and of the grueling relationships within a sick family. That is apparently too much for the movie to deal with, and so we get a bike race surrounded by giant unanswered questions.
This is one of those stories timed so that all the personal crises come to a climax at the finish line, and maybe the appr [missing text] there weren't so many enormous inconsistencies and loose ends and puzzlements.
The movie stars David Grant as an 18-year-old in St. Louis who trains on his bicycle every day, hoping someday to be as good a racer as his older brother. Kevin Costner is the big brother, a doctor in Madison, and Janice Rule is their mother. A painful dinner scene at the beginning of the movie sets up the conflict in the family, caused because the father died painfully, and the mother apparently did nothing during his last two weeks on Earth to make his passing less painful. The movie never spells out what she didn't do, but that's only the first of many mysteries.
The father died of a stroke from a weakened blood vessel in the brain. Now Costner fears that Grant may have the same condition. He takes him to Madison and runs him through a series of tests, which do indeed indicate the family condition. Then he decides not to tell him, and the two brothers set out by van to compete in the "Hell of the West" race in Colorado. Meanwhile, we meet Costner's girl friend (Rae Dawn Chong) and along the way they pick up a hitchhiker (Alexandra Paul) who pairs off with Grant.