I reviewed the ruckus-on-an-airplane thriller TURBULENCE a little before Christmas, and I knew it had two non-holiday-specific DTV sequels, so obviously I wasn’t going to let them go unexamined. TURBULENCE 2: FEAR OF FLYING is from 1999, two years after the first one, made by different people and without any connected characters. But faced with the question “What makes a TURBULENCE movie a TURBULENCE movie?” director David Mackay (ICE SCULPTURE CHRISTMAS) and writers Rob Kerchner (BLOODFIST IV-VII, CARNOSAUR 3: PRIMAL SPECIES, CASPER: A SPIRITED BEGINNING, WARGAMES: THE DEAD CODE) & Brendan Broderick (THE DEATH ARTIST) & Kevin Bernhardt (3000 MILES TO GRACELAND, PEACEFUL WARRIOR, ELEPHANT WHITE) decided “there’s a hijack attempt during a flight and they have to fight it off and somebody who’s not the pilot has to land the plane with direction from somebody on the ground.” Logical enough. Let’s go with it.
The new spin they came up with, as indicated in the subtitle, is that most of the people on this flight, including our intrepid heroes, have a phobia of flying. They’re part of a class trying to overcome said fear first in a simulator and then on an actual flight from Seattle to L.A. And they’re not very relaxed about it since one of the flight attendants accidentally left the intercom on while talking about a storm that will make the flight “Hell.”
It’s immediately clear which class members will be the central characters: Jessica (Jennifer Beals, VAMPIRE’S KISS), her smartass British boyfriend Elliot (Jeffrey Nordling, TRON: LEGACY, SULLY), and airplane engineer genius Martin (Craig “motherfuckin Boone from NIGHTBREED” Sheffer), who Elliot calls “Poindexter over there” because he’s looking at wire frames of the plane on his laptop.
Sheffer does a decent job of acting dorky, for example when he calls himself “kind of a fumblefinger” for dropping his son’s King Ghidora action figure, but I thought it was funny that a guy who looks like Craig Sheffer, and even wears a leather jacket, would be labelled a dweeb for using a computer.
The other passengers are various panicky or slimy types who obviously aren’t gonna be the hero. The unlikable behavior I got the biggest kick out of is the middle aged guys talking all horny just because two young women get on the plane together. One of them says, “Hotties like that do not travel by bus!”
Of course, any writer who’s gonna have that dialogue is also gonna have people talking about “the Mile High Club.” When one old lady is surprised that another old lady knows that phrase she brags, “Honey, I founded it.” Sassy.
This is just one of those things that can’t be avoided or planned for, but the character seen at left here, substitute flight attendant Stanley Niles (Peter Wilds, BLACK X-MAS), looks and sounds so much like what we now know as Mikey Day from Saturday Night Live that he was always kind of funny to me.
There’s a legit funny joke that Martin keeps hearing Jessica and Elliot’s conversations and butting in with airplane information and corrections, and then when they hold hands during takeoff he reaches over the seat to put his hand on top of theirs and tell them it’s going to be all right. But there’s also an odd undercurrent that Elliot sort of lightly mocks Martin to Jessica, and by the way she defends him it’s clear that she has a thing for him. And then this is paid off after (SPOILER) Elliot is revealed to be a terrorist and Jessica and Martin are able to openly court each other as they work together to save the day. Convenient.
When I saw Tom Berenger’s name on the opening credits I figured he’d either be the terrorist mastermind or the pilot. He turns out to be the guy in charge at air traffic control. The tin pusher. Of course he handles this professionally, but he would’ve had more fun as a villain. The actual terror plot is some Polish guys, speaking Polish, who smuggled a toxin onboard. Elliot initially pretends to be an MI6 agent apprehending them, but Martin notices holes in his story and calls him on it.
He makes a decent villain because we already wanted Jessica to dump his snooty ass, so it’s kinda fun to graduate to rooting for his actual death. His best over-the-top moments are 1) calling the hostages “you frequent criers” and 2) telling a guy to “Put in a good word for me!” as he throws him out of the plane. In the movie’s most entertainingly nonsensical moment we get some goofy green screen shots of the guy plummeting through the sky and then somehow he goes right through a skylight into the air traffic control center! I don’t know why the body doesn’t explode like a water balloon, or whether Elliot intended to make such an incredible hole in one. But I’m for it.
Oh, another funny thing about Elliot is that he has a long spike that pops out of his wrist to stab people, but he only uses it a couple times.
Luckily Beals is easy to love, because they don’t give her much in the way of heroics. She understands some of the Polish, is her main thing. Martin is at least a pretty unorthodox hero in that he never really turns John McClane – he’s an engineer who became obsessed with airplanes after surviving a crash so he knows all about how it operates and how to, you know, go into that back room thing and, like, do stuff with wires or whatever. And convince Elliot not to kill him because he has the best chance of landing the plane.
Another good douchebag moment for Elliot is when he tries to pass for one of the hostages when leaving the plane, yelling “Oh god – he’s… insane, he’s speaking in some foreign language, I can’t understand a word he’s saying!”
In the “I’m not sure I believe this as actual human behavior” department I would like to note that Martin kisses Jessica after they’ve saved the day and his son sees it and yells “Go Dad!” But I did think it was pretty effective when Berenger’s character Sikes came out onto the tarmac to introduce himself to Martin and shake his hand. Kind of the John-McClane-meeting-Al-Powell-face-to-face-for-the-first-time moment. Also, evidence that Berenger might’ve worked more than one day.
I would not count this among the good DTV sequels, but it’s watchable and has some enjoyable aspects, which puts it above average.