First the good news - this movie is actually two movies in one. Now the bad news - one of them isn't that good, and you barely get enough of the other to make it all worthwhile.
First, we meet Eddie Murphy as a US Army lieutenant sent to some middle eastern desert kingdom to help demonstrate and sell a new high-tech tank. This being a 1980's movie, it's no surprise that the tank doesn't work, and nearly everything seems to fall off or otherwise refuse to cooperate. (20 million moving parts, all built by the lowest bidder in Reagonomics-era dollars.) Trying to get the thing moving, Murphy's character turns a sheik's Mercedes into an oversized skateboard and, before he can get the tank to go where he wants it, finds he's stuck in a major desert war in which his tank is conspicuously the largest moving target ("I'm not in this war", he shouts vainly at jets making runs on his cranky-tank, "I'm from Cleveland!"). Remember when I said that this flick had two movies - the Murphy half is the better half.
We then cut a few years earlier to LA where Dudley Moore is one of the head engineers of a teetering defense contractor struggling to perfect the main gyroscope slated to go into Murphy's tank. Wiley's (Moore's character) fate is tied to gyro, but his life is already a mess - not even the toys he makes for his son works, and his frigid wife (Kate Capshaw, and yes, she does hum the "Raiders" theme in one scene that got more laughs than most of the movie) isn't about to stick with a man whose future is so cloudy. After a disastrous test which essentially dooms the project (and the company), Wiley runs into some guy at a bar who (in a twist that's a bit much even for a convoluted movie like this) is at work for another defense contractor on a competing version of the Dip-gyro. The guy seems bothered by something, and then he disappears...but not before he palms on Wiley a diskette containing the plans for his own company's version of the gyro, one apparently identical to Wiley'' with the exception that it appears to work. Dragooned at work into taking credit for his "improved" design, Wiley finds he's got more trouble than he bargained for - the new gyro and whoever seems to possess it are targets for a psychotic killer who freelances for the Russians (David Rasche of "Sledgehammer" fame); feds promise to protect Wiley as long as they can use him as bait for Rasche's character, and they know that the gyro isn't his; saving the company attracts the attentions of one of his company's execs (Helen Shaver) in a romance which can't last; and the new gyro only appears to be bug-free. As Moore's story progresses, we cut to Murphy's story, one in which he must suffer the consequences of being equipped with a tank built entirely of components as buggy as Wiley's gyro. Wiley in the meantime is heading to a point in which he must disclose the new gyro's flaws - which will also require that he honestly explain his own role in developing it (or lack thereof).
This was a disappointing film. It's not heavy handed like "Deal of the Century" (Another satire of defense contractors; Moore and Murphy are more spirited than Chevy Chase and Sigourney Weaver were in that movie). Moore is actually quite good, but the script seems resigned to fall on Murphy for the laughs. Unfortunately, there's barely enough Murphy in the movie (spots that ran for the movie focused only on his part of the story). In the end, this flick and "Deal" may just be proof that it's impossible to parody the military-industrial complex any better than defense contractors, congressmen and the military does in real life.