What should have been an easy flight transporting a few passengers from New York to LA on Christmas Eve turns into a complete nightmare for flight stewardess Teri Halloran (Lauren Holly - Beautiful Girls). With the addition of two convicted murderers and their guards added to the flight the atmosphere on the 747 is uneasy but that is nothing compared to when one of the convicts over powers his guards and in a mess of bullets serial murderer and rapist Ryan Weaver (Ray Liotta - Corrina, Corrina) manages to take control of the plane, made worse by the fact that both pilots have died. Fearing that Weaver has his sights set on her; Teri must escape his clutches and somehow save the day before the plane goes up in a ball of flames.
In the same year where we saw a bunch of convicts take over a plane in "Con Air" we also had the less extravagant "Turbulence" starring Ray Liotta as a serial killer who, you guessed it, takes over a plane. That's where the similarities end as whilst "Con Air" was a big budget action movie "Turbulence" is, well it doesn't really know what it is, part action, part thriller, part humorous and only partly as entertaining. In many ways it feels like a knock off "Die Hard" without the strong action figure to really lead the movie. What it certainly is, is absurd with the whole premise of the movie being convoluted and it only gets worse as it spirals off into being completely improbable.
So okay, the story of a convict taking over a plane is not such a bad one with a whole range of clever possibilities on tap to make for a clever, gripping, action packed movie. But the whole set up to "Turbulence" is so far fetched that it makes it quite laughable rather than thrilling and gripping. From the huge jumbo jet only taking a handful of passengers, to the way flight steward Teri manages to step up when it counts to fight back, so much about "Turbulence" is over the top, laughable make believe. In some ways it's worse because all of this complete nonsense is taken so seriously that they want you to believe that yes all this could really happen.
If it wasn't that the far fetched nature of it all was bad enough the fact that for what is supposed to be a thriller "Turbulence" is not exactly thrilling doesn't help. The opening scenes which deliver a twist that is pretty much wasted, is the only twist in the whole movie and that means that not only is there no intrigue and no "I wonder what will happen next" but it lacks that mystery and suspense to keep you on the edge of your seat. In place of any intrigue there is a bit of action and drama but again it's not overly great, rather cliché in it's delivery and feeling like what you would expect from any "Die Hard" wannabe, to the point that the ability to foresee the next scene or two is extremely easy.
What is though really disappointing is when it comes to the performances, and with so many of the characters dispatched with early on "Turbulence" relies on Ray Liotta and Lauren Holly to carry it, which is not a good thing. Take Lauren Holly who plays air stewardess Teri Halloran, she is a lovely actress, photogenic but her character is so cliché, a complete damsel in distress forced to take action that it is for the most laughable. It's just not a strong enough character and as such is not believable when it comes to being that forceful action figure they try and turn her into.
Then of course there is Ray Liotta as serial killer and rapist Ryan Weaver, a role which plays to Liotta's good looks and charm. Now on one hand Liotta does quite a good job delivering that charm which his womanizing character would be capable off, plus he also delivers that slight deranged even psychotic nature of a serial killer, being calculated but slightly out there. But then as the movie spirals out of control so does Liotta's performance turning a reasonable performance into something less than great as he relies on over the top hamming and raw anger rather than psychotic menace.
So what does that leave, well it has to be the special effects which to be frank are for the most not overly special. With an estimated budget of $55,000,000 it certainly wasn't a low budget picture but most of the effects such as the fights in the plane, the sudden hole in the side of it and the storm sequence all feel cheap. There are some good moments which come later on as the movie tries to deliver a dramatic finale and all I can presume is that the majority of the budget was spent on those few scenes.
What this all boils down to is that take "Turbulence" as a second rate "Die Hard" wannabe. It's so far fetched and over the top that scenes which are meant to be serious and dramatic end up laughable. Yes at times Ray Liotta does deliver a bit of psychotic menace and the finale special effects make up for the terrible ones which fill up the most of the movie, but it just doesn't cut the mustard when it comes to being an edge of your seat thriller with a bit of action.