Crash Landing (2005)





Today I'll be reviewing the lame action movie Crash Landing, a Die Hard rip-off about a plane hijacking that "borrows" familiar elements from genre flicks that came before it, like Passenger 57, Air Force One and Executive Decision, while still managing to suck. That's enough of an intro.

On to the show!...

We open with a series of vicious murders of nameless people. Brakes are cut on a Lincoln to kill a pair of women (their car crashes over a cliff in a stock footage clip stolen from Matlock), a gas bomb is set on a stove top to blow up a man (omelets are dangerous, anyone can tell you that), the longest-corded curling iron ever electrocutes a woman in a bathtub (the closest we get to nekkidness, sadly), and lastly another girl is pushed off an Amtrak train (are people really allowed to walk between cars?). Oddly, all the murdered people were flight attendants...Hmmm...


This girl doesn't have long to live.

Ok, enough of that (though remember what happened for later, ok?). Let's meet our film's hero, Major John Masters, US Army. Masters is played by 32-year old Antonio Sabato Jr., who I only vaguely remember from the criminally short Earth 2 (though I've reviewed his dad in War of the Robots and Thunder Warrior). Typical of heroes in low-budget action movies, Masters is a mix of gun-toting bravado and womanizing smoothness, equally admirable when slaughtering bad guys with his rippling muscles and firearm skills or when he's wooing giggly college girls with his unbuttoned shirt and blinding white toothy smile.


Masters (sporting a classy black felt beret, though the non-standard
high-visibility metal oak leafs on his collars clash badly with his camo BDUs).

When we first meet Masters, he's out in a raging storm flying a C-123 cargo plane. The CGI here, and later in the movie, isn't bad for the budget, about what you would expect for a late-night cable movie like this. Lightning strikes, sparks fly, his "controls are sluggish" (so is Sabato's ham-fisted acting), and the helpful air traffic controller's advice to "reverse the flaps" (which is complete nonsensical babble) doesn't help at all. Masters has no chance now but to crash land his busted plane on a rural highway in the middle of nowhere. On the way down he hits a power transformer, six telephone poles, and a wooden shack before coming to a halt mere inches from a stalled gasoline tanker (imagine the odds!). Wow, those wings must be made of Hattori Hanzo steel, they cut through those telephone poles like they were made of butter! I had really hoped that this was the event so clearly hinted at in the film's title, and thus the movie would end here before my eyes could bleed any more, but no luck, this is just a bit of crazy foreshadowing.


Crash landing the plane (why didn't he just fly up over storm,
we could see blue sky above the clouds earlier).

Shoot ahead a few weeks. Off we go to "Twin Pines Air Force Base" (which has the laxest security ever, as well as the most shabbily dressed sentries in the service) where Masters is hanging around looking all awesome and stuff. He's visited by a three-star General who gives him an assignment. Masters is to babysit a rich girl on a party flight from Chicago to Australia (her daddy is some big defense contractor or something). Masters is borderline insubordinate here, "I need a real mission!" he growls to his superior officer, who doesn't look happy. Masters is told, essentially, that he's the only man "qualified for the job", despite his proven recklessness and machismo (apparently due to his actions in the C-123 earlier, suggesting that maybe the Army would have preferred him to just crash the plane into a mountain so they didn't have to pay for new telephone poles). What are Masters' qualifications again? Is he just a pilot, a cargo plane pilot at that, or is he something more? At no time during this movie do we get a single line of dialog to suggest that he has any sort of background in Special Forces or Personnel Protection, making me wonder why he's supposedly the "only man for the job". And what's an Army general doing at an Air Force Base?


The General is not pleased with Masters (and his hair is non-regulation long).

Off now to O'Hare Airport in Chicago, where Masters gets through security with laughable ease. We see him set off the metal detector with a loaded handgun in a belt-holster (which elicits a mere yawn from the portly guard) and then walk right through the checkpoint after flashing his ID to the man for all of two seconds. If it's really this easy to get a gun aboard a plane in Chicago, then we are in trouble. Masters meets the girl's father, a middle-aged billionaire with a cheap suit and a gay assistant. He's said to be the "third richest man in the northern hemisphere" (who, in 2005, was actually British/Indian steel mogul Lakshmi Mittal).


Daddy, on the left, with what may be the host of a cooking show on PBS.

Everyone goes aboard a big 747, which is a private plane owned by the billionaire Daddy, a big-ticket penis-substitute usually reserved for the Saudis and the Sultan of Brunei (oh, and Austin Powers). The movie set doesn't look like a real 747, it looks more like a 737 with a stage-built lounge deck slapped on. The flight deck is also clearly not a 747, with only two seats and a vague bank of instruments. What other movie was this built for? The two pilots seem alright, I guess, though the co-pilot looks like Jerome Salley, but there's something spooky about the six flight attendants...


The pilots (does this really look like the cockpit of an airplane, or
a hotel room with some padded chairs and clipboards taped to the wall?).

Let's now meet Rochelle, the billionaire's daughter, played by 22-year old Brianne Davis, a pretty blonde with limited skills and a resume full of bit parts and background roles. She does a middling job in this movie, probably aware of the human excrement dripping from the script, and at times even seems like she's deliberately trying to sabotage scenes when other actors are trying to take it seriously. It makes you wonder just what was going on behind the scenes of this movie.


Rochelle.

She has brought along a bunch of her party friends, 15-20 kids (hard to keep count) who will be going with her to Australia to chug Fosters, stumble around yelling obscenities, and generally be excellent examples of the Ugly American. All the guys and girls are uniformly lousy actors, but they look pretty, and that's the point.


A collage of some of the babes. Oh, and there's some dudes,
but, you know, they're dudes, so...

Once they are in the air and up to cruising altitude, the pilot turns off the "no party" sign and the kids proceed to get down with it. The champagne is flowing, the finger sandwiches are passed out, and some really lame techno music floods the cabin with nauseating beats and rhythms as the kids shake their boobs and grind against each other. Masters is so pissed off that he has to put up with this crap (though he really needs to loosen up, his abrasive attitude isn't helping).


Girls Gone Mild.

Rochelle is the ultimate spoiled rich girl on the surface, but we catch glimpses of something more substantive in her character (displayed as best as she can). She insults Masters, but you can tell something more is happening between them. Eventually the party dies down as one after one the kids pass out from the heady mixture of Cristal, guava dip, and unabashed booby groping. The flight attendants start passing suspicious looks...


Masters is aware that Rochelle is a bitch, as are we.

Let's stop here for a second and go back in time a few weeks. In a hidden chalet in snowy Random-Continental-European-Nation, a brutal terrorist kingpin has gathered a crew of five henchmen to audition them for a daring and vile plan he has concocted. The Terrorist Leader, who looks like Derrick Jeter, says, "Ok, everyone, settle down. Thanks for coming. I'm looking for a team of German terrorists to hijack a plane. Are any of you actually German or do you just speak in terrible German accents? Because my accent is horrible, and I can't seem to hold it for more than a few scenes, but I still sound better than Cruise in Valkyrie. Do you have faintly Germanic names like Karl, Josef, Gustav and Hanna? What are your qualifications?"


Derrick Jeter.

The first terrorist, who looks like Henry Winkler, says, "I played Splinter Cell once on my cousin Ira's Playstation. Not German, but I can find Germany on a map. I think, isn't it near Seattle? Am I in?"


Henry Winkler.

The second terrorist, who looks like Halle Berry, says, "I saw Die Hard on TNT one Saturday, though I'll admit I was flipping back and forth between it and HGTV. Oh, and I should probably warn you that I crack under pressure easily and do things to jeopardize the mission, is that going to be a problem?"


Halle Berry.

The third terrorist, who looks like Jared Padalecki, says, "I'm so buff. Hey, why don't we wear some awesome villain outfits once we take over the plane? We can switch out our flight attendant uniforms for cargo pants, vests and combat hair gel. Oh, can I cut the sleeves off my black leather jacket? And what about fingerless motorcycle gloves, how do they look?"


Jared Padalecki.

The fourth terrorist, who looks like Elaine Benes, says, "Do you mind if Halle Berry and I change into these ultra-tight cleavage-baring tops with high-heeled leather dominatrix boots? Oh, and is it ok if I'm totally skittish under gunfire and prone to irrational actions?"


Elaine Benes.

The fifth terrorist, who looks like Lorenzo Lamas, says, "Say, shouldn't we maybe get a diagram of the plane we are planning on hijacking? Anyone know how to fly this plane? Maybe we should practice with these guns? And should we determine who is going to make decisions in crucial moments so we don't have a breakdown of command? And shouldn't we have some alternate contingency plans in case something goes wrong during the hijacking?"


Lorenzo Lamas.

Derrick Jeter stands up from his desk and says, "No, no, none of that is necessary. We just need to kill off the flight attendants of this airliner, replace them with ourselves, smuggle some guns aboard, and once the plane is airborne we hijack it and get filthy rich. Let's just do this! And A-Rod sucks."


And here is their target, a Boeing 747-400 airliner (model and CGI).

Back to the movie. The terrorists spring to action and take over the plane, shedding their uniforms first and slipping into something more comfortable. They have a variety of automatic pistols (and one cool Mini-Uzi) that they smuggled on board (again with the bad security) and they wave them around and scream a lot as the kids freak out. They shoot the co-pilot dead (!), which doesn't seem very smart in light of later knowledge that none of them can fly the plane, and order the other pilot to fly to the Philippines to be ransomed.


Taking over.

Masters and Rochelle had fortuitously gone aft to argue about stuff when the hijack occurred. Actually, this is the part of the movie that made me scream at the television out loud, as it is inconceivable that the hijackers would just let their main target (Rochelle) walk out of the cabin with the one man aboard who could cause them trouble (Masters).


Ahhh! It's the Cat Lady!

Alerted to the dastardly doings in the cabin forward, Masters pulls his pistol and shoots Henry Winkler dead. A raging gunfight explodes between Masters and the other terrorists. Masters is saved by the strongest lavatory door in the history of aeronautical engineering, a true marvel of materials science, a wafer-thin piece of plastic able to turn away high-velocity hollow-point bullets with ease, leaving only small blackish carbon marks as evidence. The terrorists are also the worst shots ever, with five of them unable to hit one guy from ten yards away as he repeatedly leans several feet out into the aisle to return fire. But, to be fair, Masters also manages to miss five grown adults barely concealed behind chair backs from the same distance with about three full magazines of bullets. And he flinches when his gun discharges, which is going to really affect his accuracy (squeeze it, man, don't pull it).


Gunfight! Why is he sucking on his arm?

They escape down the dumbwaiter to the cargo hold (which looks to be a hotel lobby dressed up with hanging tarps and suitcases stacked about), where Rochelle stammers and paces while Masters cocks and recocks his gun pointlessly. Down in the hold they set up an ambush, sure that the bad guys will come down for them eventually (Rochelle is why they are here in the first place so they have to get her back).


Rochelle tries to call her agent to book a better movie role.

And, they are right, as the five remaining terrorists conduct a two-pronged lightning attack, guns blazing in a coordinated blitz of cover-and-fire and target suppression. Oh, wait, no, that doesn't happen. Two terrorists (Jared Padalecki and Lorenzo Lamas) come strolling down into the hold, walking along down the open hall without any backup or plan. After Lorenzo Lamas shoots a suitcase to death (don't ask), Masters guns him down with a single shot as he stands there (surely in awe of Masters' iron-moussed hair). Masters then wrestles Jared Padalecki down with some lame kung fu, and after a few minutes of grunting, muscle straining, and hair pulling, he snaps the terrorist's neck. He then sends Jared Padalecki's body back up to the others, after scrawling "Now I have a machinegun ho-ho-ho" on him...


McClane, er, I mean, Masters taking care of business.

While fighting, a gun goes off and a stray bullet penetrates the fuselage of the plane and hits a fuel line. Ignoring the fact that most of the fuel is kept in the wings, and they have numerous redundant safety systems to keep an isolated line leak from draining a tank, this is not a good thing for a plane currently thousands of miles over the open ocean. But seriously, a 747 holds like 50,000 gallons of fuel, so how much could really be lost out of a quarter-inch hole, regardless of the size of the fuel line? And do they really need to shut off two of the four engines right now, mere seconds after the leak was detected? More on all this later.


The pilot and Halle Berry discuss the fuel leak (I know what you're looking at...).

Masters sends Rochelle up to surrender to save the hostages (even though she can handle a gun, he doesn't consider giving her one of the three he now has). He, meanwhile, will "crawl up the lavatory lines to the restroom in the center of the plane" and ambush the terrorists. He warns her that these bad guys are "professionals" (sure). Rochelle begins to morph from annoying bimbo to cool-as-ice fighter. This is, of course, expected in these types of movies, though it's sickening to watch every time. For just once I'd love to see a movie where the annoying bitchy heroine remains an annoying bitch for the duration, and doesn't end up seeing the error of her bitchy ways and reforming by the third act.


While they talk, two of the boy hostages make a half-assed
attempt to fight back, and get served for their (lame) efforts.

Sneaking up through the bowels of the plane, Masters garrotes Elaine Benes (who lacks any peripheral vision, allowing Masters to walk right up to her at a 90 degree angle and jump her), even though she's highly alerted and holding a pistol (meaning, that if you were holding a gun, and were a "professional terrorist", and someone came up behind you and tried to strangle you, would you, a) point the gun over your shoulder and pull the trigger numerous times? Or b) drop the gun to the floor and allow yourself to be strangled to death? Huh?) Masters and Rochelle share a moment of slippery pre-romance, and she apologizes for being a bitch and gazes into his deep Italian eyes.


Elaine Benes buys the farm (surely a nice potato farm
in Schleswig-Holstein). Lousy screen cap, I know, sorry.

Meanwhile, the middle-aged white guy pilot turns rambo, jumping Halle Berry and taking her gun and shooting her dead. Unfortunately, in the struggle he takes a round to the left chest (which, if my Gray's anatomy textbook is right, is where the heart is located) and is hemorrhaging badly. Since the muzzle was nearly touching his shirt when the gun went off, it defies logic that he's still alive, but there you go.


Pilot is shot.

Back in the cabin, Masters then captures the leader Derrick Jeter after a fairly short and un-entertaining kung fu fight (the actor playing Derrick Jeter apparently received all of five minutes worth of martial arts training before filming this scene). Derrick Jeter is tied up and left to stew (Rochelle later pours booze on his head, snaps her fingers like Raven Simone, and struts off, you go girl).


Derrick Jeter needs more lessons.

Ok, Masters takes over control of the plane from the gravely wounded pilot. He can fly a 747, of course, because he's a pilot, right? Flying planes is like driving cars, right? If you can fly a Cessna puddle jumper then you can fly an F-22 Raptor, and if you can fly a 40-year old prop cargo plane then surely you can fly a multi-engined jet passenger liner like a 747. [Editor Pam: Actually, no, as I can tell you know already. Every plane is different, and jet planes are very different from prop planes. Or so I've been told, I've never flown a jet. The pilot should be frantically clinging to consciousness so he can coach him, or Masters should be radioing for help.] I'm convinced. Hey, why is he flying from the co-pilot's seat?


Masters flying (stop looking at those...).

The injured pilot is nursed by a boy who just so happens to be "the best ever" pre-med student. His crack medical advice? Sit there and let me hold this beer-stained washcloth against your festering chest wound. Don't have him lie down or anything, don't worry about shock or infection or massive blood loss, just worry more about your hairdo and if your collar is popped at the right douchebag height.


Poor guy.

It's all cool now, right? Masters is in command, all is saved. Ah, but the problem is that pesky ruptured fuel line (from the gunfight in the cargo hold) and now they don't have enough fuel to make land. Realizing he's in over his head, Masters calls for help on the radio. The General from the beginning gets involved, calling in from his house in Levis and a t-shirt as the news is relayed through various official channels. The General tells Masters about "Neptune Atoll", their only hope for a safe landing, save ditching in the ocean and being eaten by sharks.


The island, with helpful directions (note the spelling error on the card).

Off to Neptune Atoll, a speck of coral far to the southwest of Hawaii that's said to be located at "61 south, 121 degrees east longitude". Uh...huh? There's an American army Captain here who is leading a crew of construction engineers (the oddly named "Army Corps") building an airfield. The Captain is played by 46-year old Michael Pare, who has been in every single bad late-night cable action movie made since 1994.


Captain Pare.

He gets the call about the incoming 747 in desperate need of a place to land. The problem is that the runway needs to be enlarged, and fast! They need an extra 100 yards to put the plane down safely, and they have twenty minutes to do it. So the whole team rushes out and jumps into three civilian S250 Bobcat front-haulers and motors off at four miles an hour into the night. They are just going to clear the jungle island foliage, it seems, not lay down asphalt or PSP planking or anything. I don't think this is going to end well.


Bobcats.

There is, of course, a wisecracking comic-relief black radioman who talks to Masters about bar-b-ques and longneck beers, as well as giving timely advice on the operation of the navigation system of Boeing airliners. This movie did not need a comic-relief character, nor does any action movie if you think about it, but it's what we have.


Funny black man.

A Category 3 hurricane is pummeling the island and the crosswinds across the airfield are 60-75 knots, with gusts up to 110 knots (which is enough to roll a landing plane "over like a Saint Bernard in heat"). But it's going to be ok, because Masters has already proven that he kicks ass at "crash landing". Captain Pare and his crew get the job done in record time (sure), even finding the time to blow up a hunk of coral with semtax explosives, creating a "level surface" with a massive explosion.


You know, the purpose of having a hood on your poncho is to keep your head dry.

As time is short (mere minutes now!) they don't have time to rig up landing lights to guide Masters in, so Captain Pare decides to light the field with flaming gasoline in trenches! Three guys with shovels dig two hundred yards of parallel trenches and fill them with gasoline in under five minutes (Army Strong! BooYah!). Captain Pare claims this is an "old WWII trick". Really? Because after an hour of googling I can't find any reference to this ever happening. In fact, if you think about it, you can't get more insanely dangerous than flaming trenches of gasoline roaring along just feet from airplanes loaded with equally-as-flammable gas and bombs.


Digging a trench.

So, with the way lit, the 747 is on final approach to land. It's the comic-relief black radioman who suggests that Masters "slip" the plane in for a landing in the brutal crosswind (kinda sorta drift in sideways to keep the wind at your back as long as possible, ish, like). So Masters comes barreling down on the runway in the raging hurricane sideways, though his landing flaps are not down, his speed brakes are not out, and he doesn't reverse thrust at all (all of which means he's going to overshoot badly and end up in the ocean). On a positive note, the turbulence is causing the breasts of the co-eds to bounce quite nicely.


Yeah, baby!

But, they land safely. In the commotion, Derrick Jeter escapes his bonds and pulls a gun on Masters. He's aware the game is over but he's going to take Masters to hell with him, and after 90 minutes of watching Antonio Sabato chew scenery and devour screen time like a piranha with a community college acting degree, this would be the ultimate in justice for me. Just as I scooted to the front of my seat in eager, almost giddy anticipation, of a .45 caliber slug slamming through Masters' skull, painting the cabin wall with brains and bone fragments, Rochelle sneaks up and shoots Derrick Jeter in the back with a spear gun. "I hate party crashers", she growls, sending me to the floor sobbing with impotent rage.


Derrick Jeter is fini.

Everyone gets off the plane, except for the wounded pilot, who they say needs a stretcher. Watch as Masters and Rochelle make small talk with Captain Pare and his men and then they all turn as one and walk off, laughing and joking. Hey, what about the pilot with the sucking chest wound?!? And we close with some ickiness as it's clear that Masters and Rochelle are now dating and stuff.


*Shudder* [Editor Pam: Oh, come on, can't you see they're
perfect for each other? How much cuter can two people meet?]


The End. Snakes on a Plane was way better.

PS: The closing credits list a "Shea Smith" as "Man Hit by Truck". Which is odd as no one was hit by a truck in this movie. Perhaps that's in a deleted scene that will show up on the Special Deluxe Director's Cut Edition of Crash Landing, available for $129.99 from Amazon.com.

Written in April 2009 by Nathan Decker and edited by Pam Burda.



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