I really have to give the credit behind my decision to review Turbulence for 2014’s Shit Movie Fest to my husband. I had actually never seen Turbulence and had no idea it was essentially Christmas eve at 40,000 feet with crazy eyes Ray Liotta. The plane is all pre-911 Christmased out. No way would you get on a plane nowadays with strings of Christmas lights aka ropes for psychopaths to use to confine and/or strangle people. I know I’d be pissed if security confiscated my shampoo and then I walked into one big twinkling security risk. But, more on the absurdity of the Turbulence airplane later.
This film opens with Ray Liotta looking suave and buying a teddy bear for his lady. Alas, he is not what he may appear. Police are staking him out because one hard up detective has had it in for him for years. He’s got him pegged as the infamous Lonely Hearts Strangler who’s raped and murdered 5 women, apparently, after enjoying a happy period of courtship before getting sick of them. We learn from the detective that he likes tall blondes who are smart and can carry on a conversation. So I guess his girlfriend’s/victims just started to bore the shit out of him. I’ve actually always found Liotta oddly attractive. Odd because he totally gives me the feeling he could really just pop off violently at any moment.
After Liotta is arrested and tried for the murders that he says he was framed for, he must be transported to Los Angeles to prison and death row. He and another prisoner are escorted by four air marshals on a commercial flight. Even though it is Christmas Eve, the plane is nearly empty, with only 11 people on board (FIRST BULLSHIT PLANE MOMENT). Real life, this plane would have been sickeningly packed with people. Liotta and the other prisoner with him (Brendan Gleeson doing a terrible hillbilly impersonation) would have just said fuck it.
During the 5 hour flight, Gleeson breaks free and begins a shootout with the marshals. Amidst the chaos, both the pilot and co-pilot are killed. Liotta frees himself and attempts to save the last remaining marshal, but fails when both the prisoner and the marshal are shot dead. At this point in the film you can tell that it was supposed to be some huge surprise if Liotta was going to turn out good or bad. He goes overboard trying to help and Lauren Holly (the pretty blonde flight attendant who has caught his eye) gets totally sucked in by his charm. She ultimately redeems herself, but let’s be honest; at first Lauren Holly really makes women look bad. Having left her fiancé at the beginning of the movie she just comes off as way to naïve and desperate to like this man – never mind he’s BEING FUCKING TRANSPORTED ON YOUR PLANE BECAUSE HE HAS BEEN CONVICTED FOR CHOKING BITCHES. “Aww but I bet he’s really sweet deep down…I can fix him.” No. Not so much. He ultimately ends up choking out her good friend/the other flight attendant/mom in Child’s Play.
Holly eventually figures out Liotta just wants to get his party on with her as the plane crashes, ending it all in a blaze of glory and taking out a shit ton of people in LA in the process. She finds the co-pilot dead in the cockpit and decides to hole up in there and try and land the plane with the help of Captain Bowen – another pilot, FBI, Police, and Dale from The Walking Dead all over the radio. And let’s talk about that for a second – Holly has absolutely no idea how to respond to emergency services over the radio when she first locks herself in the cockpit (SECOND BULLSHIT PLANE MOMENT). I know damn well flight attendants have to at least learn how to use the radio in the cockpit in case of emergencies.
All, as you can imagine, does not go smoothly. There’s apparently a huge storm they are about to fly right into (hence the turbulence! Ha!) and a fighter pilot ordered by the FBI is on its way to blow them out of the air because killing one person is better than a stupid flight attendant crashing a plane into an entire city. Liotta lures her dumb ass out of the cockpit and tries to chat her up. About movies, songs, and sex. But, she starts getting too mouthy for him – “Don’t give me an attitude. I’m just talking to ya. Just talk normal.” The first of many tussles between the two of them begins. Great fight scenes in this because the plane is so fucking gigantic (THIRD BULLSHIT PLANE MOMENT).
The plane completely flips upside down. Holly tempts him with the promise of requited affections - Bam fire extinguisher to the head. Liotta starts a fire outside the cockpit to get her out again – Bam leg gets crushed in an emergency trap door. Liotta disables the autopilot and proceeds to Jack Torrance the cockpit door which appears to be made of 70s era basement plywood (FOURTH BULLSHIT PLANE MOMENT) – those doors are surely steel. Bam Holly goes beast mode on him and breaks his arm and tries to crush him under the door. He chases her down to the first level, she manages to get one bullet in a gun and gets Liotta right in the head with an expertly delivered one liner – “You don’t believe in capital punishment” “I changed my mind.” Holly, all proud and determined (Maybe I CAN be an independent woman!), makes her way back to the cockpit and pleads with the fighter pilot in a very special heartwarming moment that “all she wants for Christmas” is one more chance to try and land. Because her first attempt led to her literally crashing a Japanese businessman’s karaoke party and getting a Ford SUV attached to the landing wheel. Sure enough, despite the callous FBI agent screaming to take the shot that pilot aims his Christmas spirit directly at that Ford SUV and shoots that off instead. With the help of Captain Bowen guiding her over the radio – she lands! A hurrah of MERRY CHRISTMAS goes up amongst the crisis airline workers, FBI and cops (BULLSHIT AIRLINE MOMENT) – it would have to be HAPPY HOLIDAYS now.
Up until this point Holly wasn’t sure if all the other crew members and passengers were dead but they find them alive – everyone is rescued! YAY. Coming out of the plane Holly comes face to face with her helper/guardian angel Captain Bowen and there’s some definite sexual tension because I think after everything she went through Holly’s character just really needs a man to validate her.
Turbulence is a typical 90s action movie. It’s inexplicable and audacious in so many ways, but with Ray Liotta doing his psycho shtick it’s really enjoyable. No one will usually think of it around Christmas of course, not with big boys like Die Hard and Lethal Weapon at the party, but I had a great time with it.
- Katherine Mahady