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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
A Blast From the Past: TURBULENCE (1997; DVD; HBO Home Video)

Releasing Studio: HBO Home Video/Rysher Entertainment
Disc Release Date: December 24, 1997
Disc/Transfer Information: Region 1 Anamorphic Widescreen 1.78:1
Rating: R
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Tested Audio Track: English Dolby Digital 5.1
Director: Robert Butler
Starring Cast: Ray Liotta, Lauren Holly, Brendan Gleeson, Hector Elizondo, Rachel Ticotin, Catherine Hicks, Ben Cross, Grand L. Bush



This Die Hard meets Executive Decision meets Con Air meets Passenger 57 mid-1990s thriller starring the always campy Ray Liotta as a madman being hauled across the U.S. for a crime he may or may not have committed was always an underground favorite of mine – and I’ve always said Liotta plays a great psychopath, perhaps better than any other mainstream actor today; I mean, just take a look at his off-the-wall performance in Unlawful Entry. It has found a kind of cult following as so many films after their theatrical release have bombed eventually do – remember the likes of Escape From New York, The Beast Within, The Dead Zone, Graveyard Shift, Judgment Night, Surviving the Game, et al ? – and I had it on my “back catalog want list” for some time now. Some contacts I have over at HBO’s home video division confirmed for me that this isn’t planned for a Blu-ray release any time soon, but just the other night, while wandering through a local Walgreens with my wife, I noticed the snapper case-packaged DVD of Turbulence sitting in their “discount bin” for two bucks, and I immediately picked it up (actually, we had a gift card given to us by one of the girls at the pharmacy counter during one stop so this purchase actually cost me nothing). Watching it brought back some good memories of an era loaded with these cheesy yet entertaining kind of action flicks along the lines of the aforementioned Con Air, Executive Decision and perhaps even Air Force One.

From the very opening credits and plot developmental sequence, Turbulence just feels like John McTiernan’s 1988 Die Hard. The film takes place – and was subsequently released – during Christmastime, where we witness Liotta’s “Weaver” character walking out of a store in a small, charming snow-covered village holding a teddy bear (Bruce Willis in Die Hard, anyone?) while the action switches back and forth between him walking through this town and a truck full of cops and agents talking about Weaver’s criminal tendencies, notably lead detective Hines (the always-great Hector Elizondo) who has been apparently tracking this “dirt bag” for some time now. Liotta’s Weaver character has been dubbed the “Lonely Hearts Killer,” accused of sexually assaulting and killing women of which Hines believes he has a taste for – somewhere along the lines of five foot seven and blonde, not to mention well-read and educated. Enter the always-lovely Lauren Holly, who is exactly that – short blonde hair, gorgeous figure and an overall appeal that would make any man take a second and third look as she walked by in a short skirt. But Holly’s “Teri” character isn’t with Weaver…just yet; we see her celebrating Christmas at the same time Weaver comes home to his current girlfriend to give her the teddy bear…though it’s not really a celebration for Teri, as her apparent fiancé who has just given her a ring stands her up at the house. Detective Hines (Elizondo), meanwhile, breaks down Liotta and the girlfriend’s door with the other cops with just enough time to slap handcuffs on him and kick him in the ribs a few times. The action then shifts to Weaver being held in a jail cell, where he plays psychopathic mind games with Hines while accusing him of planting evidence that wrongly convicted him of murder. We almost believe Liotta’s rendition of Weaver…but there is still a little look into the absolute psychopathic lunatic that dwells beneath the surface.

Lauren Holly’s Teri character is a stewardess – and a quite gorgeous one at that in her rather fetching, short-hemmed uniform – aboard a Trans Continental Airlines (TCA) New York to L.A. flight that’s going to be taking two additional passengers on this Christmas Eve flight along with the handful of other passengers comprising this unusually light load: Weaver the accused serial killer and “Stubbs,” the absolutely demented and sick bank robber (played by an over-the-top Brendan Gleeson). Why these two high security risk prisoners are transported amongst other regular commercial passengers is beyond me, and always has been – remember the events of Passenger 57? – I mean, why would any federal agency take the risk of flying lunatics with regular passengers when the danger and risk is that high? Sure, John Malkovitch, Ving Rhames, Danny Trejo and the other madmen managed to take over their U.S. Marshall-authorized plane in Con Air, but that’s a far stretch. At any rate, if you can get beyond that implausible element, Stubbs and Weaver are transported onto the giant 747 jet that’s uniquely decked out in Christmas decorations through the cabin – from Christmas trees all over the upper and lower decks to flashing lights on the garland dotting the windows and reindeer antlers on the stewardesses' heads. The TCA captain demands one of the FBI agents handling Weaver hand over his extra pistol so it is kept up front with him per regulations, while Stubbs and Weaver are positioned in their seats, Weaver already showing disturbing interest in the female members of the crew. When Weaver makes small yet odd talk with Teri, we get a further look into the character’s demented mind and what is yet to come – and it ain’t pretty.

Gleeson and Liotta play their psychopathic characters full tilt, and you can tell they had fun in the roles; Gleeson, as a demented hillbilly bank robbing thug, has a sharp mouth and also brags about “things” he’d like to do to Holly’s Teri character when asked which beverage he’d like to order, while Liotta’s Weaver says he’d like to drink whatever she’d like, which turns out to be apple juice. Things go from normal procedure to a nightmare at 30,000 feet in a heartbeat when Stubbs demands he goes to the bathroom mid-flight; when turbulence forces the captain to put the seat belt sign on, Teri and her staff (including “Maggie,” played by Star Trek IV’s Catherine Hicks) order everyone to buckle up, including Stubbs and his bathroom escort (played by Die Hard’s Grand L. Bush) – but Stubbs has other plans, as he removes a liquid soap dispenser stick and stabs the FBI agent accompanying him in the chest. This sets off a chain reaction of bad events, with all of the agents eventually killed off, leaving Stubbs and Weaver out of their cuffs and in control of the flight. There’s also a seemingly bigger problem – the pilot, in coming down to the main cabin to see what happened, has been shot in the crossfire, and the co-pilot, being thrown about from the turbulence when he’s out of his seat, was killed by hitting his head on his steering wheel console.

With the 747 on auto pilot, we begin to wonder if this was something Stubbs and Weaver planned somehow, or if it was just coincidence – but this is quickly answered when Hicks’ Maggie character, confronted with a psychopathic and sexually demented Weaver, says something to him about noticing that he hoped something would “develop” when Stubbs went to the bathroom. At first, we are lead to believe Liotta’s Weaver may not be the bad guy Elizondo and everyone else is making him out to be, as he assists in helping injured passengers and speaks to the flight attendants with respect and apathy. That doesn’t last long, though, after he goes up to the cockpit and notices there’s nobody flying the plane, unleashing a psychotic suicidal plot in his head. Knowing he is facing the death penalty when he gets to L.A., Weaver starts first with lying to Teri about what’s going on in the cockpit, but as time passes and Teri notices they’re not descending into L.A. – while finding dead bodies throughout the rickety, storm-damaged plane – she’s sure something isn’t right with this maniac she’s trapped there with. Apparently, in an anger/passion-infused rage, Weaver has strangled Maggie to death, stuffing her in one of the overhead bins, while killing off all the remaining federal agents on board…and the remainder of Turbulence has a terrified Teri attempting to escape the clutches of this psychopathic, murderous woman killer and rapist who has one horrifying plan now: Let the 747 crash into downtown L.A. to avoid capture.

Within this plot structure are almost humorously exaggerated performances from Liotta, who, as I said, always plays a great psycho – with sweat dripping and eyes bulging, he stalks Holly’s character around the empty 747, threatening sexual attacks and his plot for their suicide run. Poor Teri is also dealing with another problem: Steering and controlling this plane which is headed for a level six storm (out of a scale from one to six) between Las Vegas and L.A. Down on the ground, Weaver’s arresting detective, Hines, plus a ton of FBI agents and a terrified control staff, talk Teri through auto pilot maneuvers to line her up to help the system land the plane at LAX Airport, with the assistance of a Tower Air pilot speaking to her on her frequency (played by Ben Cross). Rachel Ticotin stars as the lead control tower operator, trying to keep Teri calm through this; Weaver, meanwhile, escapes a trap Teri set for him, which has his leg caught in a doorway leading to the upper deck of the plane, and begins going after her again. When he learns of her intentions to land the plane by helping the auto pilot system, he goes to the underbelly of the aircraft and attempts to destroy the auto pilot circuits.

The final sequence of Turbulence plays like an exact fusion of the end of Executive Decision – when Kurt Russell, with the assistance of Hale Berry, must land the 747 after the pilots have been shot dead – and Airport 1975, when Karen Black, lead stewardess on that doomed flight, attempts to do the same before Charleton Heston’s character literally drops in to take over.

While indeed hokey in many places and boasting obvious robberies from films that have come before it, Turbulence is worth its running time if only to witness one of the most electrifying performances from Liotta since GoodFellas. This is definitely worth the low price if you can find it for such on Amazon or in a bargain bin, as I did.


Presented in a letterbox-free 1.78:1 widescreen transfer, HBO Home Video – who took over distribution rights for Rysher Entertainment – gave Turbulence a pretty decent looking print. While definitely obvious that this film and its DVD transfer is a product of its time and age, with muted colors, soft visuals and a somewhat washed-out, slightly noisy look, the disc upscaled well played via my OPPO BD player to 1080p and was certainly serviceable and watchable. Compared to the films of this genre and era that I previously mentioned such as Passenger 57 and Executive Decision – both of which I own on DVD – Turbulence actually looked better, as those discs seem to be riddled with compression noise and artifacts that makes certain parts of them difficult to look at.

There were moments during the video transfer that exhibited twitchy, blocky blacks such as when the lights of the doomed 747 aircraft flash on and off as Liotta’s character stalks Holly’s in the plane’s aisles, but this was somewhat expected given the “importance” of this title and its apparent budget. As a whole, though, detail was satisfying as you’re able to make out almost every pore on Liotta’s renowned pocked face as well as elements on clothing and such; in the end, Turbulence is certainly watchable on DVD.



The default, automatically-engaging Dolby Digital 5.1 track accompanying Turbulence was also somewhat on par with films of this vintage on DVD – there’s a definite “dated” sound to the mix, with hollow characteristics coming from the dialogue and effects track from time to time, but there were surprisingly aggressive, appropriate surround moments during plane fly-overs or when overhead compartments whipped open and items spilled out, and there were even brief moments of some sub rumble…but not much. Absolutely not a bad mix given the material.


If you’ve never seen Turbulence, give this a try – you can probably find it at your local Blockbuster in the older titles DVD section…or, if it’s cheap enough (I found it for $1.00 from some vendor on Amazon when I just searched) consider a blind buy. Like Executive Decision, Passenger 57 and Con Air, this is true check-your-brain-at-the-door fun…and Liotta offers up a disturbing yet mysteriously humorous performance here as the absolutely demented Weaver.

Let me know if you’ve ever seen this, and what you thought of it!

1,936 Posts
Wow finally getting caught up on movie reviews? I can't believe this was all the way back in 97 I may have had it on LD. It wasn't a bad movie as I recall haven't seen it in a long time though pretty sure I've got it on DVD still.

2,264 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Wow finally getting caught up on movie reviews?
No, it's not that; I just recently picked this up and checked it off my "want" list, so I figured I would just share some thoughts on the DVD release, that's all, even though it's old...
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