Review – Look! Up In The Sky! It’s A. . . (“Plane”)

I’m guessing the sequels will be called Car, Train, and Boat, huh? Gerard Butler returns, but in a different role other than his action-hero persona, a trait he’s been honing for decades now in his Fallen trilogy films. This time he’s joined by Mike Colter of Luke Cage MCU fame.

Trailblazer Flight 119 out of Singapore is about to have a very, very bad day. Flying this passenger ship of 14 souls is Capt. Brodie Torrance (Butler), a family man who just wants to complete this routine trip and see his daughter (Haleigh Hekking) in Hawaii. Also on board is stalwart co-pilot, Samuel Dele (Yoson An) and (yikes!) a convicted killer named Louis Gaspare (Colter) who’s being extradited. Everything goes well. . . until a nasty storm knocks their power out and they’re forced to land (miraculously, I might add) on the remote Philippine island of Jolo; an island filled with nothing but evil pirates, cut-throats, and bad guys. How dangerous is this island? Even the Phillipine police refuse to go there!

Grounded, but at least alive, Brodie and a freed Gaspar look for help and manage to get word back home. But as the Trailblazer Airline office is scrambling to spin this catastrophe to the media, Brodie and Gaspar have bigger problems. All the passengers have been taken hostage by the island’s warlord, Junmar (Evan Dane Taylor) who, faster than you can say, “Look at me, look at me! I’m the captain now”, wants to keep them and seek out Captain Brodie. Meanwhile, Trailblazer Airline fixer Scarsdale (Tony Goldwyn) puts together a crack mercenary team to go in and get the hostages out at any cost, but will it be too late?

On paper, you’d think this is just a badly filmed, VOD, low-budget film with horrible acting and lousy dialogue. Au contraire! Thanks to screenwriter J. P. Davis (The Contractor) and newbie Charles Cumming, this simple tale of a plane crash and their consequent rescue is a melange of Con Air, Assault on Precinct 13, and Captain Phillips. And you really have to admire all the attention to the airplane flying, which isn’t just two guys in a cockpit flying a plane. They go through many procedures that lead to the actual flight! I appreciate that eye for detail. This could have easily been one of those ABC Movie of Week films they cranked out in the 70’s, if not for the grisly deaths. Except for the added shots of Bodie’s daughter (which were unnecessary), this film moved at a good clip and made you root for Gaspar, the murderer!

Butler, who almost always plays the superhero in his movies, is terrific as he dials it back here as a vulnerable real-life hero; an airline captain who makes the well-being and safety of his passengers his top priority. Of course, he’s indestructible (LOL) as he undergoes some savage beatings and fights that no average person could ever survive. Colter is excellent and steals the movie without saying a word. Is he a bad guy that turns good or just someone who sees an opportunity? Your call. Yoson An is also excellent as the co-pilot trying to maintain his composure through all the craziness. And for fun, Tony Goldwyn gets to do his thing as the arrogant airline fixer.

As I said, it’s a simple, generic, rescue picture but with the added bonus of Jean-François Richet’s (2005’s Assault on Precinct 13, Blood Father) dynamic direction that never short-changes you on any action, suspense, and nail-biting thrills. His floating camera work is everywhere and dials up the excitement at every turn. His one fight scene is a long, one-take, continuous shot that is both brutal and cringe-worthy. Okay, so the CGI work on that plane won’t win any awards so just ignore that and have a good time chomping away on that popcorn!

**Now showing only in theaters 

Con Air (1997)

You want a triple threat? I got one for ya! Screenwriter Scott Rosenberg, super-producer Jerry Bruckheimer, and action director Simon West. Now add the talents of Nick Cage, John Cusack, John Malkovich, Ving Rhames, and Steve Buscemi and you have a party!

This is one of the craziest, action-packed, explosive, fun-filled, and ridiculous movies I’ve ever seen and I loved every minute of it! Nick Cage stars the wrongly accused Cameron Poe, a U.S. Army Ranger Sgt who is finally discharged years later and is finally on his way back home to his loving wife and precious little girl. Ah, isn’t that nice? Unfortunately, he’s gotta fly home, taking the infamous Jailbird, aka ConAir, to get home. On this plane is nothing but hardened, nasty, evil criminals and some prison guards. What could possibly go wrong?

Some of the more infamous criminals aboard are super-intelligent Cyrus “The Virus” Grissom (Malkovich), serial killer Garland “The Marietta Mangler” Greene (Buscemi), terrorist Nathan “Diamond Dog” Jones (Rhames), thief Joe “Pinball” Parker (Dave Chappelle), killer Earl “Swamp Thing” Williams (M.C. Gainey), rapist John “Johnny 23” Baca (Danny Trejo), and bad guy Mike “Baby-O” O’Dell (Mykelti Williamson), who is Poe’s cellmate. Making sure all these low-life’s make it to the supermax prison are U.S. Marshall Vince Larkin (Cusak) and smug FBI Agent Duncan Malloy (Colm Meaney).

Right on schedule, Grissom and Diamond Dog take over the plane, killing some guards in the process. Their plan? Detour to a remote Nevada airstrip, pick up more prisoners, and then fly to another country. However, things don’t go as planned (do they ever?) and more guards and prisoners are killed. Poe, meanwhile, ever the good guy in this reckless chaos of bloodshed, tries to get a message to Larkin of their flight plans, still feigning his intent to join the others. In one of the movie’s funniest scenes, Poe’s past identity is found out when Grissom reads his parole letter and finds the plush toy bunny Poe intends to give to his daughter. Grissom puts a gun to the stuffed bunny’s head and says, “One more step and the bunny gets it!”

Utter mayhem ensues as the plane takes off as the National Guard is in hot pursuit, forcing Swamp Thing to land it on the Las Vegas Strip! Explosions, incredible property damage, people fleeing everywhere, and the movie’s not over yet!! There’s still the LOL motorcycle race down the strip with Poe and Larkin chasing Grissom, Diamond Dog, and Swamp Thing on a stolen fire truck!! Yeah, it’s all as nutty as it sounds! But what do you expect from screenwriter Rosenberg who gave us Gone In 60 Seconds, Venom, and both the Jumanji sequels?

Then you have the slam-bang, lightning-fast direction of Simon West who must have studied under the tutelage of Michael Bay. West, well known for his actioners Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, The Expendables 2, and The Mechanic, really has fun here in Con Air, as it was his directorial debut and shows off his talent for the over-blown and exaggerated camera angles. This is one of Nick Cage’s more downplayed, understated roles as Cameron Poe, the long-haired, soft-spoken family man with a heart of gold who just wants to do good. If you want nuts, look for Malkovich as the unhinged Grissom. Buscemi is the wildcard, leaving the audience with questions about this dangerously psychopathic serial killer that never kills anyone. This is one fun roller-coaster of a ride film that you should rent/stream!     

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