Saturday, June 8, 2024

#2,959. Turbulence (1997) - 4 Decades of Ray Liotta


The debate rages on as to whether or not Die Hard is a Christmas movie. The detractors contend it is an action film that just happened to be set during the holiday. I can see that argument (and to be fair, Die Hard was released to theaters in the summer of 1988), but I watch it every December all the same.

That said, I don’t think there’s much doubt about 1997’s Turbulence being a Christmas movie. Featuring a wild cross-country flight and the chaos that arises due to some very extreme circumstances, the “Christmas Stamp” is all over this film. From the opening scene (set in a small, snowy town that could have been lifted from a Hallmark movie) to the plane itself, which has Christmas lights draped throughout the cabin, the holiday remains prevalent throughout. Hell, the in-flight movie is It’s a Wonderful Life!

But like Die Hard, it isn’t tidings of comfort and joy that you’ll remember when Turbulence is over. For better or for worse (and there are aspects of both), it’s the insanity of it all that you won’t soon forget.

Convicted serial killer Ryan Weaver (Ray Liotta), who escaped from San Quentin two years earlier, is recaptured in New York by L.A. detective Aldo Hines (Hector Elizondo). It was Hines who initially arrested Weaver, and has made it his life’s mission to ensure the fugitive is transported back to California and returned to death row.

Weaver, who insists that Hines planted evidence to frame him, is placed in the custody of U.S. Marshals, and, along with fellow prisoner, bank robber Stubbs (Brendan Gleeson), boards a 747 on Christmas eve for the long flight west.

Once on-board, Weaver takes a special interest in flight attendant Teri Halloran (Lauren Holly), who is still reeling from a failed romance. With a handful of other passengers along for the ride, the plane takes off, just after both the pilot (J. Kenneth Campbell) and his co-pilot (James MacDonald) are informed they may have to alter their course mid-flight, to avoid a heavy storm that is ravaging the Midwest.

During a trip to the restroom, Stubbs gets the upper hand on one of the Marshals. A gunfight ensues, and when the smoke clears, all of the Marshals are dead.

They won’t be the last to die on this Christmas Eve, and the odds of the plane making it safely to California grow longer by the second.

Ray Liotta was always a good villain, and his Ryan Weaver is no exception. Likable at first (we even wonder if his accusations against Hines are valid), he begins to show his character’s creepier side the moment he sets eyes on Teri Halloran. Once the story gets rolling, Liotta is off the chain, going over-the-top more than once, but always in an entertaining way.

For her turn as the plucky flight attendant Teri, Lauren Holly was nominated for both a Golden Raspberry Award and a Stinkers Bad Movie Award for Worst Actress. And I call bullshit! Sure, Holly is no Pam Grier (Coffy, Jackie Brown), Sigourney Weaver (Alien, Aliens), or Linda Hamilton (The Terminator, Terminator 2: Judgment Day), but she’s far from terrible as the flight attendant dealing with a potential killer and a plane that could break apart once it enters the eye of a storm. Leave Ms. Holly alone, she did a fine job!

Like many action films (especially in the ‘90s), Turbulence gets more outlandish with each passing scene. There are moments that may even have you laughing out loud (one involving a truck on the roof of a parking garage made me chuckle, yet not as much as how the filmmakers “fixed” that particular… situation). But the term “stupid fun” seems to have been coined for movies like Turbulence, and aiming at that admittedly very low target, it comes damn close to the bullseye.
Rating: 7 out of 10

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