(Air Date: Week Of 1/8/97)
When I walked into the theater last night to see the screening for "Turbulence," they had airplane sound effects playing loudly over the speakers, with a "pilot" telling us to enjoy the flight, and "flight attendants" passing out peanuts.
Unfortunately, that was just about the only clever thing that happened.
Convicted serial killer Ryan Weaver, played by Ray Liotta, is nicknamed "The Lonely Hearts Strangler," and he is being transported on a commercial flight back to California after escaping from death row. After a series of disasters, he is matched in a game of wits against a flight attendant, Lauren Holly, who has to deal with both him and a huge storm to land the plane safely.
Liotta's performance makes or breaks this film. In the first half, while his character is under control, he is able to project a cool, intelligent charm that belies his status as a man on death row. All movie long, of course, he professes his innocence and claims he was framed. But later, when Weaver blows his cover, he just goes way over the top. A lot more subtlety and restraint would have gone a long way here.
Lauren Holly is passable as the flight attendant, and for her alone I might have rented this one on video, but even she can't charm her way around the Grand Canyon-esque plot holes and technical screw-ups.
Here are a couple of examples: Did you know the landing gear of a 747 could plow through the roof of a hotel without snapping off? Or that if someone smashes in the autopilot circuitry, that's OK - it just needs to reboot?
By the end, it's just too hokey and implausible to take seriously. Everything became predictable and a pretty good premise was just wasted. After a decent beginning, "Turbulence" gets a three-point landing - out of ten.
Copyright 1997 Alex Lau
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