Keep it simple: rock 'n' roll and bombs.

If you took "Star Wars" to Patrick Buchanan and asked for a rewrite, the result would be "Iron Eagle," a ridiculous rabble-drowser with the heart of a bully and the soul of a thief.

When an American pilot is shot down by vicious Arabs and sentenced to death, the "suits in the White House" try to negotiate. This is namby-pamby. "We're holding all the aces, and they're playing like all we got is a pair of twos holding on a face card," complains a military man. Force is required.

This advice on geopolitics and poker strategy is offered to Doug Masters (furry little Jason Gedrick), the pilot's son. Doug wants to be a pilot too, but he's irresponsible, given to chicken races in his Cessna -- that's why the Air Force Academy has rejected him. He has to grow up in a hurry. Why? Well, his dad is going to be executed in three days and those suits in the White House . . . well, you know those suits in the White House.

When Doug decides to take matters into his own hands, he's tutored by an eccentric retired Air Force colonel, Chappy Sinclair (Louis Gossett Jr.), a tough old cuss who understands that force is required. Doug and his friends, a bunch of Air Force brats, supply the necessary F16s and intelligence materials by sneaking on the base, messing up the computers and otherwise Taking Advantage of Dad. Chappy, for his part, supplies the expertise -- his disembodied voice (via tape recorder) tells Doug to use "the Touch." In "Star Wars," it was the Force. This is called "screen writing."

The montage of the kids stealing information from their parents is fun; more fun, anyway, than the way "Iron Eagle" steals outright, not only from "Star Wars," but from "The Karate Kid," "Explorers," "Red Dawn," "Rambo" and "Rebel Without a Cause." Gossett, to his infinite credit, suffers manfully through it all (he's a hoot when he's put upon), but mostly "Iron Eagle" doesn't even succeed on its own crude level. The spine of the story is simple -- how kids change when war is no longer a game -- but director Sidney Furie and his cowriter Kevin Elders don't hew to it: They've organized their scenes the way other people throw darts. And the movie's full of embarrassing lapses in continuity. First Chappy says he never knew Doug's father. Then he says he did know Doug's father. It's as if Gracie Allen was the script girl.

Furie comes from the Exxon school of action directors (chase, cut to gasoline blowing up); worse, he constantly interrupts the action with long, boring speeches about "pride," which are intended to provide "motivation," as if there were any point to providing human touches in a movie so ponderously fantastic and exploitative. "Iron Eagle" is heavy with bad rock 'n' roll (the theme advises you to "never say die," also "don't look back"), which is thrown together with Basil Polidouris' derivative military themes with no apparent logic.

But then, there's no apparent logic to any of this, except as a way to capitalize on the current vogue for imperialist fervor and steal the thunder from Paramount's "Top Gun," a similar movie due in the spring. According to the press kit, cowriter and executive producer Elders "started his own janitorial company when he was nineteen but always wanted to get into filmmaking."

Talk about keeping your options open.

Iron Eagle, now playing at area theaters, is rated PG-13 and contains many explosions and some profanity.