There is a child. He is young; he feels invincible. He sees a hot pan burning brightly upon a stove. The metal is turning a slight red from the sheer heat, the water inside bubbling at a rapid pace threatening to pour itself over the edge as if the contents of the pan would escape to assured death rather than spend another moment suffering within. The child knows it is hot. He knows it will burn. He knows if he reaches out to touch the glowing metal that he will be scarred and the result will be one of pain and torturous agony. Yet he touches the pan anyway.
Last night I was that child. And the 1997 Ray Liotta film TURBULENCE was that pan.
I watched TURBULENCE (1997) on 11.26.13. It was my first viewing of the film.
When considering action and suspense films of the 90s, one does not necessarily run into the film TURBULENCE on many Top 10 lists. Or Top 100 lists. Or, maybe even, Top 250 lists. TURBULENCE is not regarded with any sort of positive thought. It’s not necessarily considered bad enough to enter legend, but it wouldn’t be accused of being a good movie.
Yet, truly, it is powerfully bad.
A serial killer (Ray Liotta) may or may not be as evil as everyone thinks he is. But he has been caught and is about to be transported across the country on a ridiculously large plane. This plane must seat 250 or 300 people. It has a frickin staircase in it. It’s enormous.
Yet, somehow, this flight on Christmas Eve from JFK to LAX, in the middle of the afternoon, has SIX passengers. Six. Not sixteen. Not sixty. Not two hundred and six. Six. Six passengers. Unfortunately, those six passengers are about to be accompanied by a half dozen others. There will be some marshals escorting a couple of criminals. One being Liotta’s Weaver and the other being a hick named Stubbs (as played by Mad-Eye Moody).
Additionally, there are four flight attendants on this flight. Three of them really don’t matter. But the fourth one is Teri (Lauren Holly). Teri just lost a fiancee but that doesn’t mean she likes it when the serial killer gives her googly eyes.
Or does she?
See, TURBULENCE, wants to milk whether or not Weaver is bad. So he says he is innocent, he seems nice enough, and he’s helpful after a shootout on a plane is only ended when Teri sticks a briefcase in a hole in the fuselage caused by a gunshot (because that is how science works). So after possibly saving some lives while also taking some others, maybe Teri and Weaver can have a thing.
But if you’ve killed all your other potential villains forty-five minutes into a movie… well, then you are stuck. So you have to reveal that Weaver really is a bad guy after all. And he’s going to suddenly do insane things like seat all the dead people in airplane chairs and serve them a dinner. He’s also going to rant and rave and scream like he was Bruce Banner before the shootout and The Hulk after it.
But that’s ok, because the pilots are dead so Teri is too busy learning how to fly a plane through her headset. But just doing that would be boring, so she has to first stupidly leave the cockpit and make herself a victim for awhile, run around the plane loudly calling for people while knowing a psycho is there too, discover some dead bodies like this is a FRIDAY THE 13TH film, and then get in a fight.
The 90s were filled with movies which embraced excess. FACE-OFF, for example, would never be green lit in today’s modern action film. Modern day gives us a James Bond who gets beat up, and camerawork which asks us to enter the world of the film as if it were us standing next to the hero.
In the 90s, they really didn’t care about any of that. They wanted to have fun and to smile at the camera as they did. This leads to an amazing chasm between the movies that did this well (CON AIR and DESPERADO come to mind) and those which did not (SPEED 2 and, well, TURBULENCE).
There really is nothing redeeming about this movie. The ‘jokes’ are written like they may have once sounded funny on paper six drafts ago. But then, they were over-talked, over-analyzed, and then performed by sub-par actors. The result is witty banter which is neither witty or particularly banterous.
I hated this movie. TURBULENCE is God awful. No redeeming performances, no redeeming action sequences, no so-bad-its-good moments. It’s just awful. Terrible. Avoid like it carries the plague.
FILM: 2; MOVIE: 4; ACTING: 3; WRITING: 2
FINAL SCORE: 2.75