Passenger 57 (1992) — Die Hard on a plane, baby

“Always bet on black!”

Justin’s rating: I’d rather watch something else on this flight

Justin’s review: One of the benefits of covering a lot of older movies for this site is that it often prompts a “I forgot about that actor — I wonder what happened to him/her?” searches. Action heroes in particular tend to have brief runs in the spotlight before falling into a career of smaller and more obscure roles.

Such it is with Wesley Snipes, who honestly did have a really good run for a decade there. From 1989’s Major League to even 2004’s Blade Trinity, Snipes was a marketable action powerhouse. I always loved him in Demolition Man, although there’s something to be said for his role in the underrated U.S. Marshals. But what about that time when he was a U.S. Marshal? Kind of? That’s right, I’m talking about Passenger 57.

For all of the obvious limitations with staging an action movie on a flying vehicle with narrow aisles, few rooms, and only the most occasional drink service, Hollywood seemed hellbent on making “Die Hard on a plane” work. On top of this movie, we had Executive Decision, Air Force One, and Con Air.

So let’s meet our major players. Snipes plays Cutter, an airline security expert who’s the type of guy when he’s not curt, he’s grumpy — and when he’s not grumpy, he’s curt. It never made sense to me that all of these Die Hard knock-offs couldn’t make their protagonists as cheerfully obstinate and memorable as John McClane. They all have to be mildly put out that this kind of stuff is happening on their shift.

Cutter’s opposition is Rain (Bruce Payne), who is the most laughably unthreatening terrorist I’ve ever seen in a movie. He’s the type of guy who freaks out when someone calls him insane, tries and fails to coin catchphrases, and doesn’t seem to be competent at anything, even trying to look menacing.

Naturally, both Rain and Cutter end up on the same plane, which is also playing host to a terrorist convention. I have no idea why Rain managed to cultivate the loyalty needed for an army of minions, but he’s got enough for Wesley Snipes to kill at the rate of one per fifteen minutes. His number two is Elizabeth Hurley, prompting a shout of “Elizabeth Hurley is in this?” from the coach section.

To its credit, Passenger 57 does figure out a way to deal with the limitations of filming on a plane. To its detriment, its answer isn’t to be more creative with the setting but to land said plane after 20 minutes and taking all of the action off of it and into a [checks] fairground carnival? So why aren’t we calling this Carnie 57?

In any case, Cutter doesn’t do much to acquit himself against this group of lackluster nitwits. Watching this movie is like viewing a boxing match with out-of-shape weekend warriors making halfhearted jabs at each other until one collapses from a stroke.

It’s inexplicable to me that this movie was a profitable success. If you must watch it, I sure hope you like extra helpings of cliché casserole, because that’s all you’re going to get. Hard pass, proceed to boarding zone D.

Didja notice?

  • Check out that X-Ray intro sequence!
  • You can tell a doctor to nix the anesthesia while performing surgery
  • His big plan was to jump out of a window four stories up and hope that something would break his fall?
  • You can assault your attorney while in a police station and nobody will notice
  • Feds will put famous hijackers on airplanes to transport them
  • Airline screeners enjoy feeling up cute passengers
  • Real bad guys wear cute little dangly blue earrings
  • The old lady who thinks Cutter is Arsenio Hall
  • So none of these guns fire bullets that can go through an airplane’s rather thin metal skin?
  • Terrorist gets a face full of blue toilet water
  • A super young and thin Bruce Greenwood
  • Fall out of a plane? Racist cops are gonna getcha.
  • This soundtrack is way too much in love with the saxaphone
  • The cops don’t surround the plane, so the terrorists just… leave

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s