Opened: January 10, 1997 | Rated: R
Only 10 days into the new year and already we have what may be the worst film of 1997.
At the risk of tempting Murphy's Law, I defy anyone in the next 51 weeks to find a more worthless use of celluloid than "Turbulence," which manages to find the one place left on Earth where a movie psycho hasn't yet run rampant -- onboard a 747.
Even if you go in for popcorn-chompers that rehash shopworn scenes of flashlight-lit lunatics stalking pretty and vapid heroines, you'll recognize this movie for what it is: the recycling of dilapidated ideas without a shred of original thought. It's "Psycho 3" meets "Airport '79."
The story opens in New York on Christmas Eve with the capture of an escaped serial killer (Ray Liotta, in what has to be the low point of his career). He is quickly escorted by federal marshals onto a 747 headed to Los Angeles, where he is to serve time.
Soon after leveling off, a second prisoner being transported with our antagonist breaks free of his guard during a trip to the loo and proceeds to kill the marshals and the pilot with a handgun. He's apparently a great shot as only one bullet pierces the fuselage, and that is in the bathroom.
The co-pilot inadvertently helps out by doing himself in with a thump on the noggin when the plane hits an air pocket.
Liotta then shoots the prisoner who started all this rigmarole and locks everyone else in the crew cabin (there were only about 10 people on board) except stewardess Lauren Holly ("Sabrina") -- he has a crush on her.
The next hour consists entirely of Holly being chased around the plane, with a few stops in the cockpit to fiddle with the automatic pilot since the plane is flying through a level six storm -- the kind even 747s are supposed to go around.
In the mean time, there's some FBI guys in the tower at Los Angeles International who phone the Pentagon to suggest an F-14 come shoot down the plane, since the psycho might want to nose-dive into downtown L.A. as he has nothing to live for.
Also in the tower are the usual off-duty pilots and such, who talk to Holly over the radio so she can learn to land the plane.
They first spend about two minutes of screen time explaining how the two-way radio works (the switch in one position to talk and another to listen), then moments later proceed to interrupt her in mid-sentence -- which they had just explained isn't possible.
After that even more absurd and implausible thing begin to happen. Holly decides to leave the cockpit again, just as the plane is entering the worst of the storm, because the killer tells her another stewardess is hurt and needs her help.
Of course Holly's just a sucker and really her co-worker is dead, so all we get is another round of hide-and-seek in the Business Class seats -- during which the 747, still on automatic pilot, proceeds somehow to do a barrel roll for no apparent reason.
By the time the F-14 arrived in this mess, I was cheering for the plane to be shot down.
There are many more examples of why "Turbulence" should be considered more a disaster movie than a thriller (the acting, to begin with), but if I haven't talked you down from wanting to see this movie by now, I never will.
Suffice to say, if "Turbulence" isn't the worst movie of 1997, we're in for a bumpy ride.