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1999 | 1997

1 item from 1997

Film review: 'Turbulence'

3 January 1997 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

It's "Twister" at 36,000 feet.

In "Turbulence", Lauren Holly has a particularly bumpy ride as a flight attendant who engages in a battle of wits with a cunning, psychotic killer (Ray Liotta) aboard a storm-battered 747 on Christmas Eve.

The result is a solid actioner charged by taut direction and sharp casting, not to mention terrific sound and visual effects.

While the picture has seen several delays in its arrival time due to, among other things, last year's TWA disaster, its January landing looks ideal as it fills a post-holiday action lull and gets a jump on the upcoming, similarly themed "Con Air".

Marking the feature debut of screenwriter Jonathan Brett, whose short film "The Dutch Master" received an Oscar nomination, the terror-in-the-skies scenario may not exactly be the freshest of concepts, but he's thrown in a few unexpected twists to keep things involving, while veteran TV director Robert Butler ("Hill Street Blues", "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman") knows how to maintain a crisp pace.

Little time is wasted in the set-up: A New York-to-Los Angeles flight is headed into more than just inclement weather as a quartet of federal marshals board the plane with a pair of shackled criminals. One is Stubbs, a grizzly armed robber ("Braveheart"'s Brendan Gleeson) who takes delight in upsetting the passengers. The other is Ryan Weaver (Liotta), a charmer of a murderer who claims to have been framed for his death row sentence by a fame-chasing detective (Hector Elizondo), who was disappointed that the arrest never made "Hard Copy".

Stubbs, meanwhile, makes an in-flight escape attempt that triggers a nasty bloodbath. After the smoke clears, the only principals still left standing are Weaver and flight attendant Teri Halloran (Holly), who engage in a lethal game of cat and mouse as Weaver sheds his "is-he-or-isn't-he" persona in favor of his true psychotic serial-killer self, determined to crash the jumbo jet right smack dab in the middle of downtown L.A.

Although "Turbulence" raises some inevitable questions of plot logic (beginning with that uncharacteristically empty flight, given the Dec. 24 date) and has its share of clunky dialogue, the cast rises to the occasion.

In what effectively serves as the breakout role of her career, Holly ("Dumb and Dumber", "Down Periscope"), sporting a spiffy new hairdo, is pitch-perfect as the gutsy but vulnerable Teri; while Liotta, who's always great at playing the enticing psycho (see "Something Wild", "Unlawful Entry") portrays this particular variation with go-for-broke gusto. Also effective are Elizondo as a not-exactly-by-the-book cop, Catherine Hicks as a shaken senior flight attendant and Ben Cross as a pilot instructor who gives Teri a crash course in emergency landings.

Production values are exceptional, with top marks given to Mayling Cheng's production design that's so authentic you'd swear you could smell the diesel fuel and Mark Vargo's state-of-the-art visual effects. Meanwhile, composer Shirley Walker contributes a chillingly atmospheric score that quietly heightens the visual suspense rather than attempting to match it note for note.



A Rysher Entertainment presentation

A Martin Ransohoff production

A Robert Butler film

Director Robert Butler

Screenwriter Jonathan Brett

Producers Martin Ransohoff, David Valdes

Executive producer Keith Samples

Director of photography Lloyd Ahern II

Production design Mayling Cheng

Editor John Duffy

Visual effects supervisor Mark Vargo

Music Shirley Walker

Costume design Robert Turturice

Casting Phyllis Huffman



Ryan Weaver Ray Liotta

Teri Halloran Lauren Holly

Detective Aldo Hines Hector Elizondo

Stubbs Brendan Gleeson

Capt. Bowen Ben Cross

Rachel Taper Rachel Ticotin

Maggie Catherine Hicks

Running time -- 103 minutes

MPAA rating: R


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1999 | 1997

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