TURBULENCE (1997)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 40 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Terror, Strong Violence and Language

Turbulence poster

Directed by: Robert Butler

Written by: Jonathan Brett

Starring: Lauren Holly, Ray Liotta, Catherine Hicks, Hector Elizondo, Rachel Ticotin, Brendan Gleeson, Ben Cross, Jeffrey DeMunn

TURBULENCE is a much-maligned action thriller that was released in the dump months (January-February) of 1997. It quickly bombed (making about a fifth of its budget back) and appropriately nominated for two Razzies (Worst Actress and Worst Disregard for Human Life and Public Property). Mark my words, this is a bad movie and deserves the hatred it receives…yet, there’s something enjoyable about just how silly everything is. So bad it’s good is a phrase I rarely use in my reviews, purely for the fact that usually if some movie is that ungodly awful then it’s more enjoyable with a group of drunk friends and some pizza (e.g. THE ROOM or TROLL 2). TURBULENCE is a movie that I was actively cracking up at. I can wholly admit that it’s terrible, but also stupid fun.

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It’s Christmas Eve and Teri is stuck working a 5 hour flight to Los Angeles. To make matters worse, two criminals are being transported on her plane. An intricate series of events takes place and the passengers wind up being taken hostage by serial killer Ryan Weaver (an erratic Ray Liotta). It’s up to Teri to do everything within her power to land the plane and survive the ever-escalating (pun intended) situation. Just about every cliché and dumbass decision you can imagine follows, but it’s done in such ineptness that I couldn’t help having fun watching this stupid flick that comes off as a less-successful version of CON AIR with only two convicts and a plane full of naïve morons.

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The character of Teri (played by Lauren Holly a.k.a. Mary Swanson from DUMB & DUMBER) is one of the aforementioned morons. Initially pretty dumb to begin with, Teri makes some of the worst mistakes any character in a horror flick can make (though this doesn’t really belong in that genre with the exception of a crazed serial killer). One long sequence immediately lost any possibility of sympathy I might have garnered from her character. When a convicted killer tells you he needs a First Aid kit for an injured passenger and you happen to go out in the hallway to see a First Aid kit already sitting there, you might want to turn around and run into the safe confines of the cockpit. It’s one in a long line of silly mistakes and I can’t fathom a director or screenwriter that could honestly put this out there and not expect any backlash. Apparently, such people exist and TURBULENCE is the result.

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Besides Lauren Holly (playing Teri) delivering the most laughable lines of dialogue in the film, the other characters come off half-developed stereotypes that have been seen in over a dozen movies. Hector Elizondo is the one-note cop who planted evidence in order to arrest Weaver. His character doesn’t do much other than have phone conversations with Liotta’s lunatic here and there. Speaking of which, Ray Liotta is a tour-de-force of ridiculous behavior as Ryan Weaver. His delivery just seems off-kilter in trying to be subtle. When going over-the-top, Liotta completely jumps the shark. He’s nuts. There’s no other way of putting it.

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Brendan Gleeson also pops up as the Southern-accented criminal being transported with Liotta. Cop clichés litter the entire script. The ending is predictable and plenty of plot holes are in the road of getting to that point. However, for every bit of corniness, I did have fun watching this movie and don’t regret it. I was laughing and rolling my eyes the whole way through. How this ever got past the pre-production phase is beyond me, let alone why MGM funded this for 55 million. It’s no wonder that studio eventually wound up bankrupt. The studio apparently didn’t have any faith in the final cut either, because they dumped this movie in January (which is never a good sign in terms of quality).

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In the end, TURBULENCE is far from a good movie. It’s not even a decent one. To be perfectly honest, it’s bad. All around horribly written and unconvincing. With all this being said, I had fun watching it. Some of the problems can be seen a new light given the so-bad-it’s-good qualities. It’s also a little funny and sad to see once-acclaimed Ray Liotta going so far into campy territory with this film. I’m a bit surprised that TURBULENCE doesn’t have a similar cult following to THE ROOM or TROLL 2. I’d recommend this in the way that I’d recommend SHARKTOPUS. You know what you’re going in for and you won’t be disappointed in that respect. Trashy fun and guilty pleasure are the best things I can say about TURBULENCE. In this case, I’d call that a backhanded compliment.

Grade: C-

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